Photo: Steve WylieYui Kamiji (JPN)
Shingo Kunieda, Yui Kamiji and David Wagner won the men’s, women’s and quad singles titles at the 2013 NEC Wheelchair tennis Masters on Monday, with Kamiji making history at the Margeurite Tennis Pavilion in Mission Viejo, California by becoming the first non-Dutch player to win the women’s singles title in the 20 year history of the NEC Masters.
Kamiji started the Japanese double later completed by Kunieda after securing a 76(3) 36 64 victory over defending champion Jiske Griffioen, who was bidding to continue the Dutch dominance.
However, world No. 3 Griffioen handed Kamiji the initiative after a doubles fault on break point in the fourth game to give her opponent a 3-1 lead. Griffioen battled back to take the lead for the first time at 5-4, but the first set ultimately came down to a tiebreak, which Kamiji dominated from the outset.
Griffioen was hampered by problems with her serve at key times and a double fault gave Kamiji the opening game of the second set. However, Griffioen made amends to open a 3-1 lead. Although another double fault saw Kamiji get back to within a game of her opponent at 4-3, Griffioen produced some solid tennis to serve out the second set to love.
Griffioen earned the first service hold of the deciding set to lead 3-1 and broke Kamiji to make it 4-1. However, the Dutchwoman’s hopes of retaining the title were interrupted by two error-strewn games that allowed Kamiji to draw level at 4-4 before she moved ahead for the first time in the final set courtesy of a crisp cross court forehand winner.
With Griffioen serving to stay in the match, a double fault brought up Kamiji’s first match point and although Griffioen saved two match points in the final game, two more successive double faults brought a fascinating final to an end, with Kamiji claiming her second and most important career victory over Griffioen in the seven matches between the two players.
“it’s been a great week at the NEC Masters here in Mission Viejo. I’d like to thank Jiske Griffioen and her team for making such a great final. She was a really tough opponent,” said Kamiji. “I also want to thank the people who were involved in this great tournament and made great atmosphere. Finally, I’d like to thank my team, especially my coach for helping me during the year.
“It’s been a great season. I won my first Super Series and Masters titles and reached my highest ranking position. I look forward to playing the next season and hopefully winning a Grand Slam title.”
Wagner wins sixth NEC Masters quad singles title
This season Lucas Sithole has become the first African player to win a Super Series title and the first African to win a Grand Slam wheelchair tennis title. The 27-year-old triple amputee began his bid to become the first African to win an NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters title in fine form as the US Open champion raced through the opening set against world No. 1 Wagner without dropping a single game, despite a closely fought deuce game to end the set.
After winning their quad singles round-robin match earlier in the week in straight sets, Wagner came out for the second set much more positively and gained an early break, but he put in a double fault to end a marathon fourth game and allow Sithole to level the set at 2-2. Nevertheless, cheered on by his legion of enthusiastic supporters Wagner regained the momentum and claimed the last four games of the set to force a decider.
The 39-year-old defending champion then put together a similar sequence to wrap up his sixth NEC Masters quad singles 06 62 62.
Kunieda retains men’s singles title
Kunieda became just the second player to win back-to-back NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters men’s singles titles after a 60 76(9) victory over Belgian world No. 6 Joachim Gerard.
Gerard had demonstrated his immense talent in the round-robin phase of the competition, in which he beat world No. 2 Stephane Houdet of France and world No. 3 Maikel Scheffers of Netherlands. Meanwhile, world No. 1 Kunieda had lost his last round-robin pool match to French world No. 8 Nicolas Peifer.
However, there was little to suggest that Kunieda was vulnerable as he powered through the first set of the final without dropping a game.
Gerard battled back from 4-3 down in the second set and saved three break points before delivering a booming forehand winner to claim a 5-4 lead. The Belgian saved two more break points and delivered an ace to maintain his slender advantage at 6-5 before Kunieda forced the tiebreak and went on to earn two match points at 6-4 in the tiebreak. But, once more Gerard was equal to the task and went on to have set points at 7-6 and 8-7.
However, Gerard’s effort finally ended as he sent a return long over Kunieda’s baseline, giving the top seed another match point, which Kunieda duly converted to claim his second successive NEC Masters title.