Photo: Takeo TanumaLucas Sithole (RSA)
Stephane Houdet, Aniek van Koot and Lucas Sithole won their first singles titles in New York as the 2013 US Open Wheelchair Tennis Competition, part of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour, came to a thrilling close on Sunday. The world No. 1 players in the men, women’s and quad singles were all defeated and Sithole became the first African player to win a Grand Slam wheelchair tennis title.
As a result of beating world No. 1 and Roland Garros champion Sabine Ellerbrock in the women's singles final, van Koot has returned to the top of world rankings this week, having first become world No. 1 herself after securing her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January.
Sithole makes history in quad singles final
Sithole had already made history before taking to the court for the quad singles final, having become the first African wheelchair tennis player to reach a Grand Slam singles final. However, with the world No. 3 having beaten American world No. 1 David Wagner in the round-robin phase of the event on Friday, Wagner’s bid to avenge that loss started well as he won four of the last five games in the opening set.
Sithole gained the first service break of the second set to lead 4-3, but Wagner matched his opponent and after a sequence of three successive breaks Sithole secured the crucial hold to level the match. Another service hold at a crucial time came in the eighth game of the deciding set as Sithole opened up a 5-3 lead and Wagner was unable to get back on terms, with Sithole sealing a 36 64 64 victory for his fourth win over Wagner this year to complete a memorable Grand Slam debut.
“I was confident coming into the final,” said Sithole after ending Wagner’s bid for a third successive US Open singles title. “I’d like to thank the supporters and also David for sharing the experience with me on court. I really enjoy playing against him. He is a great player, one of the best in the quads.”
Houdet wins second Grand Slam title of 2013
After finishing runner-up to world No. 1 Shingo Kunieda in New York in 2011, Houdet beat the four-time US Open champion in a Grand Slam final for the second time this year.
As the world’s top two ranked players met in their third Grand Slam final of the year, two-time Roland Garros champion Houdet gained the first service break for a 3-1 lead and the Frenchman went on to clinch a double break as he wrapped up the opening set in 37 minutes.
Houdet had taken the first set off Kunieda in their 2011 final before Kunieda raced through the second and third sets on that occasion for the loss of just one game.
But there was to be no comeback on this occasion despite Australian Open champion Kunieda recovering from 3-0 down to trail by just one game midway through the second set and world No. 2 Houdet completed a comprehensive 62 64 victory after 82 minutes of play.
Van Koot adds US Open crown to Australian title
Van Koot met world No. 1 Sabine Ellerbrock in a Grand Slam women’s singles final for the second time this season, with both players in search of their second Grand Slam titles after victories at the Australian Open and Roland Garros respectively.
Ellerbrock gained the early advantage after securing the first service hold of the match for a 3-1 lead and she maintained a comfortable cushion to take the first set in 28 minutes.
Van Koot took a commanding 3-0 second set lead and after Ellerbrock had taken an injury time out for a back problem as she trailed 4-1 the Dutch world No. 2 kept up the pressure to force a deciding set.
A tense third set saw Ellerbrock recover from 3-0 down to lead the decider for the first time at 5-4, but van Koot withstood the pressure of twice serving to stay in the match despite a double fault count that was well into double figures and she forced a final set tiebreak.
Van Koot earned a 3-1 lead in the tiebreak, which she extended to 5-2 before sealing a remarkable 36 62 76(3) victory on the first of three match points after one hour and 45 minutes to add her name to the women’s singles roll of honour alongside that of her compatriot and six-time US Open champion Esther Vergeer.
Men's singles draw
Men's doubles draw
Women's singles draw
Women's doubles draw
Quad singles draw
Quad doubles draw