Photo: Do-Won KimElena Jacinto (ESP)
Twelve nations line-up in Antalya this week for the second regional qualification event for 2013 BNP Paribas World Team Cup, the ITF’s flagship wheelchair tennis team event, which will be held back in Antalya for the second time in four years in May.
Nine nations will vie for qualification for men’s World Group 2 and eight nations will seek to earn qualification for the women’s World Group, setting up what is expected to be a highly competitive and exciting week of wheelchair tennis.
There are three pools for the round-robin phase of the men’s event – one of pool of four nations, one pool of three nations and one pool of two nations.
Apart from Italy, who won the qualification event in Turkey in 2012, and Norway, the other eight men’s teams that contested last year’s European qualification event have returned to try again.
Switzerland finished runners-up to Italy last year before being awarded a wild card for the 2012 BNP Paribas World Team Cup in Seoul, Korea, and will be among the favourites to win this year’s men’s event to earn qualification by right. With experienced campaigners Daniel Pellegrina and Thomas von Daeniken in their team, Switzerland are top seedd for the men’s event.
After finishing third in the qualification event in 2012, Greece also gained a wild card for Seoul, Korea and will aim to improve on last year’s performance, as will host nation Turkey, who were fourth in last year’s European qualification event and this year field a four strong team that again includes Turan Akalin and Muharrem Cakmak, as well as Malik Aydin and Ismail Canturk.
One of the closest finishes in Turkey last year saw Denmark’s Christopher Holmer and Christian Illum beat Lithuania’s Aleksandr Olechnovic and Jan Vysockij in a deciding doubles rubber in the knockout phase of the competition as Denmark went on to claim seventh place and Lithuania finished ninth. With all four players representing their teams again, another possible head-to-head between Denmark and Lithuania later in the week could be one tie to look out for.
Ireland have not contested the BNP Paribas World Team Cup since 2002, but 11 years on experienced players Ivor Jess and Stafford Lynn lead an Irish challenge once again.
There are two pools of four nations for the round-robin phase of the women’s event.
Last year’s women’s qualification event came to a thrilling climax as Austria narrowly lost out to France in a deciding doubles rubber in the final. After missing out on going to Korea in such circumstances, Margit Fink and Henriett Koosz return to lead Austria’s bid once again and should again be among the main contenders, despite only being fifth seeds.
Spain are top seeds this year, with Lola Ochoa being the highest ranked player in the women’s event, sharing a top 30 world ranking with her team mate Elena Jacinto and Austria’s Koosz.
Switzerland’s team includes players that have previously contested medal matches in the BNP Paribas World Team Cup, while other strong challenges can be expected from last year’s qualification event semifinalists Turkey and Israel. On home soil Busra Un, Ebru Bulgurcu, Julide Yildiz and Nese Aydemir will aim to at least equal Turkey’s third place finish in 2012, while Israel’s Inna Mashkovsky and Veronica Zvik have another year of experience to draw on.
Russia field junior players in both their men’s and women’s teams, with the Russian women’s team including Polina Shakirova, who was recently one of the partnership that won the girls’ doubles title at the 2013 Cruyff Foundation Junior Masters in Tarbes, France.