Top seeds Maikel Scheffers and Stephane Houdet secured their passages from their respective pools to the semifinal knockout phase of the 2011 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters on Wednesday, while crucial matches still remain to decide the second placed players in either pool.
Defending champion Stefan Olsson is one of those players still bidding to book a place in the men’s semifinals after he and Houdet provided a thrilling late-night contest on the second day of competition in Mechelen, Belgium.
Meawnhile, there are a series of crucial women's and quad singles matches to come in what should be a highly exciting final day of round-robin pool contests.
MEN – Pool B
Stephane Houdet (FRA) v. Stefan Olsson (SWE)
Olsson, the 2008 and 2010 champion, clinched the last three games of the first set against world No. 3 Houdet, but Houdet went on to win four of the first five games in the second set to set up the prospect of a deciding set. The resilient Swedish world No. 4 improved his chances of finishing off a straight sets win before Houdet clinched the crucial break he needed for the loss of just one point on Olsson’s serve.
The final set brought some breathtaking tennis and an exchange of ferocious ground strokes as Olsson came from 4-1 down. However, the defending champion served a double fault to give Houdet two match points and the Frenchman went on to remain undefeated in his pool after a 46 75 64 vicotry.
Ronald Vink (NED) v. Frederic Cattaneo (FRA)
After the first four games of his match against Ronald Vink world No. 9 Cattaneo was on equal terms, but Vink stepped up a gear to string together four games in a row and seize the initiative.
Cattaneo held serve in the opening game of the second set and four games later got himself on the scoreboard again, but that was to be the extent of his success as Vink wrapped up a 62 62 victory.
Olsson and Vink will now go head-to-head to decide which of them joins Houdet in the last four.
MEN – Pool A
Maikel Scheffers (NED) v. Nicolas Peifer (FRA)
World No. 2 Scheffers recovered from a slow start against world No. 5 Peifer as the young Frenchman threatened to pull off an upset after dropping just the fourth game in the opening set.
But the top seed gained the momentum in the first three games of the second set, maintaining his early advantage to take the match into a deciding set.
The two players exchanged breaks to begin the third set, but a sequence of three successive games brought the 2009 champion a 16 63 63 victory after an hour and 41 minutes of enthralling tennis to secure his place in the semifinals once again.
Robin Ammerlaan (NED) v. Satoshi Saida (JPN)
After his loss to Scheffers on the opening day of play, six-time NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters champion and former world No. 1 Robin Ammerlaan gained a double break to give himself a comfortable first set cushion against world No. 8 Satoshi Saida.
Saida threatened a comeback when he won three of the next four games, but Ammerlaan soon wrapped up the set before taking a 4-1 lead in the second and that proved decisive as the Dutchman secured a 63 63 victory after an hour and 20 minutes of play.
With Ammerlaan and Peifer both on one win apiece after the first two days they now go into the last day of pool matches facing a must-win head-to-head.
David Wagner (USA) d. Noam Gershony (ISR)
World No. 1 Wagner kept his hopes of reaching the final alive as he came from 3-1 down in the opening set of his contest against Gershony, having lost to the Israeli player in the group the group phase of September’s US Open in New York.
Gershony, making his NEC Masters debut, edged a marathon third game that included eight deuces in the second set as he put together a sequence of four games. The world No. 3 kept the double break cushion to force a thrilling decider, but with his NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters challenge for 2011 in the balance Wagner found a way to win the points that mattered as he edged to a 64 26 76(6) victory to set up an enthralling final day of pool matches.
Andrew Lapthorne (GBR) d. Nick Taylor (USA)
After defeating world No. 1 David Wagner on Tuesday, Lapthorne started his second round-robin match against an American opponent with an immediate break, but both Lapthorne and Taylor managed to string successive games together as world No. 5 Taylor built up 5-3 advantage.
However, world No. 4 Lapthorne kept his composure to force a tiebreak and one all seven points to take the opening set.
With his second victory in successive days in reach Lapthorne got the better of the exchanges in the first three games of the second set en route to opening up a 5-1 lead and despite Taylor’s best efforts the Briton completed a 76(0) 63 victory after two hours of play to remain undefeated on his NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters debut.
WOMEN – Pool A
Esther Vergeer (NED) v. Aniek van Koot (NED)
World No. 1 Vergeer booked her place in Friday’s women’s singles semifinals with another comprehensive victory for the second day in a row.
The 14-time NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters champion moved 5-0 ahead before her compatriot van Koot retrieved a break, but Vergeer soon wrapped up the first set before taking a 4-0 second set lead.
This time van Koot was able to win just the fifth game of the set and Vergeer needed a total of just 65 minutes to claim her place in the last four with a 62 61 win.
Sabine Ellerbrock (GER) v. Annick Sevenans (BEL)
Belgian World No. 8 Sevenans, whose image adorns the official poster for the 2011 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters, claimed her first victory of this year’s even as she edged out her higher ranked German opponent.
Sevenans made a promising start in the first set as she gained the first clear break of serve, but a sequence of five games put Ellerbrock in charge of the set and she seized the initiative.
Sevenans again broke Ellerbrock’s serve to start the second set, but this time she didn’t let the world No. 6 back in and built a 5-1 lead. Although Ellerbrock, another player making her NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters debut, got within a game of Sevenans the local favourite held on to force a decider.
It was Ellerbrock’s turn to make the brighter start to the third set, but Sevenans would not be denied and reeled off six games in succession to prevail 36 64 62.
Sevenans now plays Vergeer in the featured match on the schedule during the final day of round-robin matches, while Ellerbrock and van Koot go head-to-head.
WOMEN – Pool B
Daniela di Toro (AUS) v. Sharon Walraven (NED)
After losing her opening match of the week to world No. 2 Jiske Griffioen, di Toro gained an early break against Walraven to lead 3-1 before Walraven broke back to level at 3-3. However, di Toro laid down the gauntlet as she clinched the final three games of the set.
A competitive contest between the two former NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters finalists saw Walraven take the initiative at the start of the second set and while di Toro looked to have regained a decisive advantage when she won four games in a row Walraven rallied to draw level again at 4-4. Thereafter, neither player was able to gain the upper hand and even in the tiebreak an exchange of mini-breaks saw di Toro come from 3-1 down to 3-3. But her final charge didn’t stop there and after winning six out of seven points the Australian eventually sealed a 63 76(4) victory.
Jiske Griffioen (NED) v. Marjolein Buis (NED)
Griffioen and Buis fought out a close first game in their second round-robin match, but thereafter Griffioen dominated to take the opening set without reply in just 20 minutes.
The world No. 2 then won the first three games of the second set before Buis finally got on the scoreboard and with Griffioen leading 5-1 Buis secured back-to-back games for the first time. However, it proved to be too little too late for the world No. 4 and Griffioen wrapped up a comprehensive 60 63 victory in exactly an hour.
Di Toro faces Buis and Griffioen takes on Walraven in a fascinating end to the pool phase of the women's singles.