09 Sep 2017

Fernandez and Houdet ready for US Open semis

News Article

By Sandra Harwitt

Photo: Takeo TanumaGustavo Fernandez (ARG)

NEW YORK - For the first time in his career, Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina is contesting at a Grand Slam as the No. 1 wheelchair player in the world.

Fernandez, who’s won seven titles this season, moved through the first hurdle at this US Open by securing a 16 61 75 quarterfinal victory over Nicolas Peifer of France on Friday.

While this is the first time Fernandez is enjoying top ranking status on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour - he assumed the leadership role in July - it’s worth noting it’s not his first taste of being the best. In his youth, he was the No. 1 ranked junior wheelchair player on the planet.

“It’s an amazing feeling, an amazing feeling,” said Fernandez, of his new found status as the best in the business. “It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s a good pressure, and I’m trying to start to get used to it.

“It’s different being No. 1 going to a tournament,” he added. “But I’ve been doing well so far.”

In the match against Peifer, Fernandez started tentatively, then Peifer tailed off in the second set. The real competition was in the close third set. Fernandez was able to capitalise on Peifer’s second serve points, winning 23 of the 38 second serve points that Frenchman served.

“I didn’t play well in the first set,” Fernandez said. “I was too tense and couldn’t think. Then I started realising that if I didn’t relax and start thinking the match was going to go away. I’m satisfied with the way I battled back and the way I fight at the end when the match was really tight.”

Fernandez started the year in grand fashion by winning the Australian Open for the inaugural time in his career. It was his second career Grand Slam singles title as he won the 2016 Roland Garros trophy as well. He also performed well at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, although his journey ended as the losing finalist at both of those events.

The semifinal will deliver a second consecutive French opponent to Fernandez, who will face Stephane Houdet for a spot in Sunday’s final.

“It’s a semifinal of a Grand Slam, so I know it will be tough,” Fernandez said.

Houdet, the 2013 US Open champion, is of the mind that these days there are no easy matches in one’s path to victory.

“Gustavo is world No. 1,” Houdet said. “You know in the past when we made the draw you used to think, ‘I’d love to play this guy or this guy.’ Not anymore. You can pick anyone and you can win or lose, so the draw is useless.”

Houdet set up his semifinal berth with a 63 63 win over Stefan Olsson of Sweden. Olsson proved to be more vulnerable on his serve, only winning 45 percent of the points on his first serve, which allowed Houdet an opening. 

A piece of history will be made in the oher half of the draw as Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett contest the first Grand Slam singles semifinal between two British players.

World No.1 Reid beat Joachim Gerard of Belgium 67(5) 64 61 in his opening match to reac the semifinals in New Yoakr for the second time since 2013. Meanwhile, world  No. 3 Hewett came from a set and 3-1 down to defeat si-x time US Open champion Shingo Kunieda of Japan.

Three Dutch players feature in the women's singles semis. The only non-Dutch semifinalist is word No.1 Yui Kamiji of Japan who opeined her bid for a second US Open title by defeating Lucy Shuker 61 60.

Kamiji faces Aniek van Koot next. Van Koot, the 2013 champion won her first match this year against South Africa's Kgothatso Montjane 64 62. 

A rematch of the Wimbledon final brought the same outcome as in July as Diede de Groot defeated Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany 62 64. De Groot meets her countrywoman Marjolein Buis for a place in the final after Buis ended the challenge of USA wild card Dana Mathewson 62 63. 

Saturday's third day of action features the singles semifinals and all three doubles finals, as well as the last two quad singles round-robin matches.

World No. 1 David Wagner remains unbeaten in the quad singles after defeating world No.2 Andy Lapthorne 62 64. Lapthorne, who beat 2015 champion Dylan Alcott in his opening match, goes into the last set of round-robin matches with the same one win and one loss record as Alcott.

The Australian came back from his early loss to beat wild card Bryan Barten 62 75.