Photo: Takeo TanumaStephane Houdet (FRA) and Shingo Kunieda (JPN)
Top seeds Stephane Houdet of France and Shingo Kunieda of Japan took the first step towards defending their Wimbledon Wheelchair Gentlermen’s Doubles title on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
But the semifinal provided some tense moments for the veteran stars of wheelchair tennis before they secured a 16 64 62 win over Tom Egberink of Netherlands and Gordon Reid of Great Britain.
In the opening set, the Houdet and Kunieda duo were surprisingly only able to hold serve once on Houdet’s serve in the fifth game. While they held that game at love it didn’t amount to much with Egberink and Reid playing fearless tennis.
“I think at first they played like that because they had nothing to lose,”said Houdet, as he patiently signed autographs for fans by drawing a tennis ball out of his initials. “But then after they won the first set I think they saw it was possible for them to win, so that might have changed (how) their minds were. I think that’s when they saw they had something to lose.”
The tide turned in the favor of experience in the second set when Houdet and Kunieda raced to a 4-0 lead. Although the other team were able to win the next three games they couldn’t push further to even the score.
In the third set, Houdet and Kunieda were the dominant paring and Kunieda served out the match at love for the duo.
“Today the first set was very tough because the younger guys played with full power so we couldn’t play our game,”Kunieda said. “After the second set we could play our game.”
Houdet believes their partnership works because of their ability to get along.
“We have a lot of fun playing together,”Houdet said. “It’s very tough to play on the grass but we are going to try to defend.”
For Kunieda, the last few weeks have been exciting as UNIQLO, the clothing line he endorses, has taken on sponsoring the international wheelchair circuit.
“I think it’s very fantastic because UNIQLO is now one of the biggest companies in Japan and it’s great to have them sponsor us,”Kunieda said. “It’s very interesting and very exciting.”
Both Houdet and Kunieda understand that defending their title will take tremendous effort as they take on second seeds Maikel Scheffers and Ronald Vink of Netherlands.
Scheffers and Vink came through to the finals with a 63 76 (2) win over Frederic Cattaneo of France and Joachim Gerard of Belgium.
“It was tough in the second set as it felt like we were waiting the whole day,”said Scheffers, of waiting out the long rain delay. “So we went 5-3 down but we managed to pick up our level and finish it in the tiebreaker.”
Vink’s won this title three times, in 2007, 2008 and 2011. In 2011, he won the title with Scheffers at his side.
‘We have great memories from that year 2011,”Scheffers said. “We won all four of the Slams in doubles. So that was really good.”
No matter who ends up winning the final there is one thing that is a given - it’s going to be a highly competitive and entertaining match.
Women's Doubles Draw
Men's Doubles Draw
Order of Play: Sunday, 6 July