Photo: Mathilde DusolMaikel Scheffers (NED), Tournament Director Esther Vergeer (NED) and Shingo Kunieda (JPN)
World No. 1 Shingo Kunieda claimed his latest NEC Wheechair Tennis Tour title on Satuday after Dutchman Maikel Scheffers pulled out of their scheduled final at the 5th ABN AMRO World Wheelchair Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam due to injury.
Scheffers appeared on court shortly before Saturday's scheduled singles final and in an interview reported the news that an elbow injury he had sustained during his three-set semifinal on Friday against Britain's Gordon Reid had forced his withdrawal. Tournament Director Esther Vergeer confirmed the news.
Instead of the final, Kunieda entertained the crowds in an exhibition match againt Reid, who had partnered Frenchman Stephane Houdet to win the doubles title on Friday.
Kunieda, making his first appearance in Rotterdam, dominated his singles semifinal on Friday against French world No. 9 Michael Jeremiasz as the Japanese player raced to a 61 60 victory over Jeremiasz. Jeremiasz won the first game of the match, but after the first two games had gone to deuce Kunieda put together a sequence of 12 successive games, breaking Jeremiasz to love to win the first set and wrapping up the contest on his second match point.
“Today was perfect, I’m very satisfied (with my performance),” said the two-time Paralympic champion. “I put pressure on and I controlled the points and I am looking forward to the final.”
Jeremiasz was left to reflect on what he regarded as an error-strewn performance. “I was playing well earlier in the week, so I am frustrated,” said Jeremiasz. “I made many, many mistakes and too many double faults.”
With the penultimate day of play in Rotterdam starting with the guarantee of a new name on the singles roll of honour, the other semifinal was far closer as Scheffers came from behind to beat world No. 7 Reid 46 64 75. Reid looked like he was on course for a place in the final on his debut in Rotterdam as he came from 2-0 down to lead 5-4.
Scheffers then called the trainer and received treatment to his right arm, before showing that all was perhaps not right as two double faults and a forehand into the net gave Reid three set points, with the Briton taking the set at the second opportunity.
However, Scheffers came out fighting in the second set and gained the only break to lead 5-4 before serving out the set to force the decider.
Reid gained the first breakthrough in the final set to lead 4-2, but Scheffers went on to take five of the last six games to earn his place in his first final in Rotterdam.
After beating world No. 2 Houdet to reach the semifinals, defeating two of the world’s top three ranked players in successive days had narrowly eluded Reid.
“I’ve had lots of tough matches against Maikel in the past and it was back to that today,” said Reid. “I wasn’t quite as sharp as I was yesterday and he was more consistent. I played well at times, but had too many dips and Maikel was steady all the way through.”
Houdet and Reid stay unbeaten to lift doubles title
The men’s doubles decider produced another close finish as Houdet and Reid took on Jeremiasz and Ronald Vink of the Netherlands, both of whom had lost out to Kunieda in the singles rounds.
A tense opening set saw Houdet and Reid move 5-3 ahead and although Jeremiasz and Vink forced a first set tiebreak Houdet and Reid built a 5-2 cushion en route to taking the set.
A shift in momentum saw Houdet and Reid only manage to take the fourth game of the second set as Jeremiasz and Vink took the final into a match tiebreak.
The French-Dutch duo then came from 5-1 down to level the match tiebreak at 6-6 and took a narrow 7-6 lead. Houdet and Reid won the next three points to earn their first two match points, only to see both opportunities disappear. However, at the third time of asking they finally extended their unbeaten sequence to five matches and two tournaments after sealing a 76(3) 16 (11-9) victory.