24 Jan 2012

Australian Open Wheelchair Championships Preview

News Article

Photo: Paul ZimmerEsther Vergeer (NED)

The 2012 Australian Open Wheelchair Championships will be held at Melbourne Park on 25-28 January, featuring 20 of the world’s top wheelchair tennis players. The Championships form part of the 2012 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour, organised by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), and comprising a total of 173 tournaments in 45 countries.

The Australian Open Wheelchair Championships take place during the second week of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, with eight men, eight women and four quad players contesting both singles and doubles events. The current world No. 1 players Maikel Scheffers (NED), Esther Vergeer (NED) and David Wagner (USA) head the entries for the men’s, women’s and quad singles respectively. The field also includes Japanese players Satoshi Saida and Yui Kamiji.

Scheffers ended the four-year reign of Shingo Kunieda as world No. 1 in December and Kunieda’s recent withdrawal from the men’s event due to injury means that there will be a new name of the roll of honour at the Australian Open for the first time since the wheelchair tennis events at the Grand Slams took on Grand Slam status in 2009.

This year’s men’s event could be more open than ever before, Scheffers has lost twice this year to French former world No.1 Michael Jeremiasz, most recently in Monday’s men’s final at the Sydney International Open, the first Super Series tournament of the year.  Jeremiasz was not ranked high enough to qualify for this year’s Australian Open, but there will be plenty of challengers as Scheffers’ bids to follow up his 2011 Roland Garros title, including his fellow Dutchman Ronald Vink, 2011 runner-up Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer of France and Sweden’s Stefan Olsson.

Saida comes into the men's field following Kunieda's withdrawal and the Japanese world No. 8 remains the last player to beat Kunieda at the Australian Open Wheelchair Championships, having won their quarterfinal match in 2006.

Esther Vergeer once again starts as a hot favourite in the women’s singles, having dropped just four games in seven matches this year, including two wins over her compatriot and world No. 2 Aniek van Koot in the Melbourne Open and the Sydney International Open finals. Van Koot, Dutch world No. 4 Marjolein Buis and Australia’s Daniela di Toro will be among the strongest challengers at Melbourne Park.

Israel’s world No.3 Noam Gershony beat American world No. 1 David Wagner of USA in Monday’s quad singles final in Sydney and will be a strong threat to Wagner’s Australian Open title defence alongside Britain’s Peter Norfolk and Andrew Lapthorne.

The NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour, organised by the ITF and sponsored by NEC, has one of the most advanced and far-reaching tournament calendars and ranking systems in international disability sport. The Tour includes wheelchair tennis events at all four Grand Slams, with total prize money of more than one million US dollars.

The world rankings are updated weekly by the ITF, with over 600 men, 200 women and 75 quad players from over 50 countries featuring on the current ITF Wheelchair World Rankings. Esther Vergeer has been woman’s world No. 1 for 12 years.

NEC Corporation in Japan is joined by regional and local NEC companies around the world in supporting wheelchair tennis tournaments as part of the ‘NEC Make-a-Difference Drive’, the Corporation’s worldwide volunteer programme that engages employees in the sport in such roles as ball persons and linespersons and through the loan of PCs and interpreters. NEC will continue to support wheelchair tennis as part of its Corporate and Social Responsibility programme.

Draws and Order of Play

The matches on the first day of the 2012 Australian Open Wheelchair Championships on Wednedsday, 25 January are scheduled to take place on courts 5, 7 and 10, with play on each court starting at 11.00 local Melbourne time.

The draws and the order of play for Wednesday are availabe below.

Live scoring for all matches will be available on the official Australian Open Website.