30 Dec 2017

The UNIQLO Interview: Doubles Masters reflections

News Article

Photo: Mathilde DusolGordon Reid and Alfie Hewett (GBR)

UNIQLO LogoFor the first of two year-end UNIQLO Interviews we spoke to Gordon Reid, Nick Taylor and Marjolein Buis, three of the 2017 UNIQLO Wheelchair Doubles Masters champions, who all achieved personal landmarks or records in Bemmel, Netherlands.

As the 2017 UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour drew to a close, in late November and early December the UNIQLO Wheelchair Doubles Masters and NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters provided two memorable weeks of competition for the world’s top ranked men’s, women’s and quad players, with Gordon Reid, Marjolein Buis and Nick Taylor all creating personal history in one way or another as they shared in Doubles Masters victories in Bemmel, Netherlands.

With Reid announced as the latest UNIQLO Global Brand Ambassador shortly before Wimbledon, the second half of 2017 was particularly successful for the 2016 ITF World Champion, who partnered fellow Brit Alfie Hewett to victory at the Doubles Masters.

“I’m really proud to represent UNIQLO and to have them as title sponsor of the Doubles Masters made it a fitting end to the year to win in Bemmel and take the year-end No. 1 doubles ranking,” says Reid as he reflects on his season and, for the second time in three years, finishing on top of the men’s doubles rankings as a result of victory at the UNIQLO Wheelchair Doubles Masters.

“I feel like I’ve started to regain some of the form that I was showing in 2016 and in the two weeks of the Masters events I was playing some of my best tennis again. So we’re pretty happy with the second half of the year and to win another Grand Slam and then the Doubles Masters with Alfie was great. The performances at the two Masters events rather than just the results have given me the most confidence,” adds Reid as he looks ahead to the start of 2018 and the prospect of defending the Australian Open men’s doubles title, having partnered Joachim Gerard to victory at Melbourne Park in 2017.

“I think looking back at 2017 I was maybe quite harsh on myself and also I think other people were maybe quite harsh on me as well because of the year I had in 2016 and what they were basing success to be. But looking back at it now I won a Super Series title and an ITF 1, I’m still in the top four in singles and I won three Grand Slam titles, the Doubles Masters and finished the year as No.1 in doubles. So now I’ve had time to reflect I’ve realised it wasn’t as good as last year for me singles-wise, but it was one of the most successful years I’ve had ever on tour.”

While Reid’s Doubles Masters victory was his third in the event with three different partners since 2013, Taylor and David Wagner’s quad doubles victory in Bemmel was a remarkable testimony to an enduring partnership and its longevity and consistency.  

In beating Antony Cotterill and Andy Lapthorne in the quad doubles final Taylor and Wagner notched up their tenth Doubles Masters title in their 13th straight final in the event since their first crown in 2005.

“It means a great deal to have been so successful in doubles, not only with the same person, but with someone I consider such a great friend,” says 38-year-old Taylor, whose own longevity as a player dates back long before he first gained the quad singles world ranking in 2001. In the following two seasons both Taylor and Wagner would rise to the top of the quad singles and doubles rankings for the first time before winning the first of three successive Paralympic doubles gold medals in 2004.

“First off, our games complement each other very well. David is able to handle the front of the court better than anyone in the world. You combine that with what I am able to provide at the back of the court, and it becomes a pretty strong partnership,” adds Taylor as he reflects on some of the factors that have seen he and Wagner win the best part of 90 doubles titles together.  

“Secondly, we have so much experience together that we could always rely on. We have won on the biggest stages, lost on the biggest stages, and everything in between. We’ve had to deal with one of us being sick or injured, etc., numerous times. We even had to play each other for a bronze medal in the Paralympics, and then turn around a few hours later to play for the gold medal in doubles, all in the same day.”

With their tally of UNIQLO Wheelchair Doubles Masters titles now in double figures, what about the possibility of a fourth Paralympic gold medal in Tokyo?

“I’ve been very fortunate to compete in the last four Paralympics, and yes I would love to compete in at least one more,” says Taylor before going on to his hopes for wheelchair tennis as it now heads towards its 50th anniversary, having celebrated 40 years in 2016.

“I hope that in 10 years, the sport has become mainstream on television, which will make it much easier for players to get sponsorships.”

While Reid is now a three-time Doubles Masters champion and Taylor a ten-time Doubles Masters champion alongside Wagner, this year’s UNIQLO Wheelchair Doubles Masters ended with Marjolein Buis having secured two new career landmarks.

Buis and Diede de Groot, the Rio Paralympic gold medallists, became the seventh different all-Dutch partnership to win the women’s title at the Doubles Masters, with Buis becoming the eighth different Dutch player to lift the title as the 29-year-old secured the year-end No. 1 women’s doubles ranking for the first time in her career.

“There are quite a few wins I'm really happy with and proud of. But I think my highlight is being the year-end No. 1. It sums up all the successes of 2017,” says Buis. “I'm very happy with my year-end ranking. It shows that my good results in doubles are not just a result of having a good tennis player next to me on court, because in 2017 I played with many partners.

“I maintained a very steady level in doubles during the year and I'm very proud that it has led to so many titles and this fantastic year-end ranking,” she adds.

Buis won 11 doubles titles with five different partners in 2017. From the end of February to the end of June she teamed up with all five of those partners to win seven successive doubles crowns before finishing runner-up at Wimbledon with de Groot.

Buis and de Groot won four titles together during the year, including the US Open in New York, while Buis also won the women’s doubles at Roland Garros, partnering Yui Kamiji.

“Leading up to the Paralympics, I paired up with my Paralympic doubles partner (de Groot). In 2017 I had the opportunity to play with different partners again. I think it’s fun to play with various girls and it helps me discover what my strengths in doubles are, because every partnership has its own opportunities and challenges,” Buis reflects.

“It helped me discover what kind of doubles partner suits me the best and how I can challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone, to make the best of a match.”

After her landmark season Buis has much to look forward to in years to come and is clear on what she hopes for for wheelchair tennis for 2018 and beyond.

“I hope that many more people will start playing wheelchair tennis. I wish to see the amount of top players grow drastically, so there will be more competition. I also hope that more players will be able to make a living out of wheelchair tennis, because when you are able to focus on tennis full-time, your level will go up. The level of wheelchair tennis is much higher now than it was ten years ago. So a lot could happen if all of us will continue to invest in ourselves and our sport.”