Photo: Tommy Hindley / Professional SportStephane Houdet (FRA)
LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN:Stephane Houdet of France will be playing the men’s singles Paralympic final for the first time in his career. Houdet who only reached the quarterfinals in Beijing beat Maikel Scheffers of the Netherlands in the first match of the day on centre court.
The players came out to an enthusiastic crowd on centre court. Centre court prior to the players’ arrival had just been entertained by a special appearance by Mandeville.
Houdet confidently started the match breaking scheffers to love his first service game to go 2-0 up in the first set. Houdet was hitting penetrating ground strokes and putting scheffers under pressure by moving him from side to side.
The Dutchman however managed to turn his game around reducing the number of errors and moving into the court to take the ball on earlier forcing Houdet to be the one on the move. This change of tactics was a success and he broke Houdet twice in a row to lead 3-2.
The Frenchman however regained his form of the first two games to stop the Dutchman’s momentum and the next few games involved closely fought rallies from the baseline. Houdet began pressurising Scheffers with his high topspin drives. Houdet broke back to level the match and took the lead 4-3 after Scheffers failed to convert his break point on the Frenchman’s serve.
Houdet was then unstoppable for the rest of the set regularly forcing Scheffers outside of the doubles tram line with his backhand crosscourt. Scheffers had his chances with another breakpoint at 5-3, but Houdet’s serve helped him get out of the situation acing Scheffers to bring the game to deuce. Houdet took the set 6-3, winning set point with another ace down the middle, winning four games in a row.
Scheffers put an end to Houdet’s run by holding serve in the opening game. However Houdet looked the stronger of the two throughout the second set, taking the first break in the third game and quickly leading 3-1.
The Dutch crowd present tried to lift Scheffers who saved three break points to come back from 0-40 to win his serve, bringing the score to 3-2.
Scheffers tried to use this new momentum to pressurise the Frenchman’s next service game which would have levelled the set at 3-3. Houdet’s deep, top spin shots to the backhand corner and his slice winners were too much for Scheffers however, and Houdet saved one break point to go 4-2 up.
There was no stopping Houdet after this, who only made two unforced errors in the second set compared to his nine in the first set. Serving at 5-2 40-15 on his first match point he put a forehand volley into the net. One more chance was all he required though, as an ecstatic Frenchman won 6-3 6-2.
Houdet will now face the winner of the next semifinal which involves Ronald Vink of the Netherlands and defending champion Shingo Kunieda of Japan.
Follow the scores from the Paralympic Tennis Event on the Schedule page.