Photo: Gerry KrippsGary Luker (CAN)
Stephen Welch and Emmy Kaiser secured a double for the United States in the men’s and women’s singles at the Windsor Classic over the weekend, while Gary Luker claimed a home victory for the host nation in the quad singles at the ITF 3 Series event in Ontario, Canada.
The men’s singles featured players from four nations, including Yemen’s Hamdy Nassor, but the players from North America dominated, with one all-American and one all-Canadian quarterfinal in both the top half and the bottom half of the draw.
After claiming the only three-set match in the first round, with a 60 57 64 victory over Canada’s Jean Paul Melo, USA’s Matthew Devlieger went forward to meet Welch in the last eight, while third seed Philippe Bedard had to come from a set down to beat fellow Canadian Eric Gllbert 36 61 62 in his quarterfinal.
Having dropped just two games to Bedard in last year’s final, former world No. 1 and 1999 ITF Wheelchair Tennis World Champion Welch faced much sterner opposition in this year’s semifinals to prevail 62 57 61.
Second seed Steve Baldwin also had a tough time in his semifinal after he and Canadian fourth seed Joel Dembe had both eased through their earlier matches. However, Baldwin fought back from a slow start to gain a 16 64 63 victory over Dembe to set up an all-American final, with Welch eventually retaining his title 64 62.
“I am obviously very pleased with the tournament win,” said Welch, who has subsequently moved up one place in this week’s new world rankings. “I didn't feel that I played my best tennis throughout the week, possibly because it was my first event of the season after a lengthy tournament break. I'm hoping to make big improvements in fitness this year and change the chair position.
“For me the big surprise was Philipe Bedard, who has made notable improvements in his game. He gave me tough resistance in our semifinal match yesterday. A big thank you goes to Jennifer (Bellaire) and her staff, who run this tournament in a friendly and laid back way. I’m looking forward to coming back next year."
Baldwin and Welch also paired up to win the men’s doubles after the second seeds secured a 76(4) 36 (10-5) win over top seeds Bedard and Dembe as the final was decided in a championship tiebreak.
Kaiser and Luker claim women’s and quad titles
Kaiser has also moved up one place to No. 17 in this week’s women’s singles world rankings after the 23-year-old comfortably won both her round-robin matches in a three-way all-American event in Ontario.
After having only played one tournament since winning four back-to-back women’s singles titles in Europe and USA between May and July 2013, Kaiser made a winning start to 2014 with a 61 61 win over Krystal Kelley and a 60 60 win over Beth Redford to claim the major spoils.
Luker, who has won one ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour quad singles title in each of the last two seasons, has improved his ranking by two places to No. 22 this week after dropping just three games across his two round-robin matches against fellow Canadians Bert Blokker and Robert Shaw. Luker beat Blokker 60 61 and Shaw 60 62.
"I'm really happy with the way I played,” said Luker after claiming his second ITF 3 Series title with victory over Shaw. ”I felt my serves as well as my returns were the key today. It’s a great start to the season for sure! This win should help me get closer to the Top 20 world rankings. I’m looking forward to heading down south to the next tournaments in Baton Rouge and Pensacola in March!"