25 Jan 2013

Kunieda, van Koot, Wagner claim Melbourne titles

Match Report

Photo: Paul ZimmerAnek van koot (NED)

Shingo Kunieda of Japan, Aniek van Koot of the Netherlands and David Wagner of USA won the Australian Open men’s, women’s and quad singles titles respectively on Saturday at the first Grand Slam of the year on the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour. Van Koot’s victory propelling her to No. 1 in the women’s singles world rankings.

Van Koot nets maiden Grand Slam singles title

The first four games of the women’s singles final between van Koot and Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock went to deuce, with van Koot winning the lion’s share of the points to take a 3-1 lead before holding serve comfortably to extend her advantage to 4-1. After edging another deuce game top seed van Koot subsequently served out the set.

There was major shift in momentum in the second set as Ellerbrock, playing in her first Grand Slam final, won the first two games and broke van Koot’s serve to love to establish a 3-1 lead. The world No. 4 remained largely in control for the rest of the set, but conceded three successive set points at 5-1 as van Koot fought back to deuce, only for Ellerbrock to convert her next set point to force a decider.

Ellerbrock and van Koot swapped service breaks to start the final set before van Koot asserted herself to establish a 5-2 lead. However, she then started to show signs of nerves as Ellerbrock saved match points in the eighth and ninth games of the set and finally levelled the match at 5-5 in the third. However, van Koot regrouped to serve out for a 6-5 lead and after seeing seven match points disappear she finally converted her eighth to wrap up a 61 16 75 victory.

Van Koot, runner-up to Esther Vergeer in the 2012 Australian Open, succeeds Vergeer and adds her name to the list of Dutchwomen to have topped the world rankings.

“I’m still nervous,” van Koot told the Australian Open website afterwards, referring to the seven match points that slipped away. “Sometimes you have the feeling if you’re not going to win them (match points) now, you’re not going to get a chance again. I was very pleased to keep my serve to go to 6-5. In the end I started to enjoy it a bit more and then it went better.”

Kunieda clinches sixth Australian Open crown

While van Koot’s is a new name on the Australian roll of honour there was a familiar conclusion to the men’s singles final after Kunieda clinched his sixth Australian Open title since 2007. Only injury ruled Kunieda out of last year’s tournament, interrupting his sequence of tiitles.

At the end of a week in which he regained the world No. 1 men’s singles ranking from Frenchman Stephane Houdet, Kunieda denied Houdet again as he avenged his loss to Houdet in the final at Roland Garros last June.

That was Kunieda’s last loss in competition and he made his intentions clear from the start at Melbourne Park as he raced in to a 3-0 lead before holding serve to love to make it 4-0. Houdet battled back to win the next two games and had a game point to make it 4-3, but could not take his opportunity and Kunieda moved to within one game of the set.  Houdet had game points for 5-3, too as the eight game of the set went to deuce, but Kunieda kept up the pressure to eventually take the set 6-2.

A comfort break between sets was followed by Houdet needing time out for repairs to his tennis wheelchair, but the break in proceedings did little to slow Kunieda down and he built a 5-0 lead in the final set and soon completed a comprehensive 62 60 victory on his second match point.

“Last year I was injured so I couldn’t play here, but I have the title again, so I’m very happy,” Kunieda told the Australian Open website.

“It’s very nice to play under the sun in Australia,” said Houdet. “it’s always a great tournament but today the sun was Shingo.”

Wagner claims second Australian Open quad title

The quad singles final started an enthralling last day of play at Melbourne Park first-time Grand Slam finalist Andy Lapthorne of Great Britain secured a double break to lead Wagner 4-0. There were plenty of deuce games throughout the contest and the fifth game was by far the longest of the first set, with Wagner finally taking it to get himself on the scoreboard at 4-1.

Another deuce game in the sixth also went to Wagner, but Lapthorne made it 5-2 and served out the set.

The second set was almost a mirror image of the first as Wagner took a 5-0 lead and although Lapthorne took the next game and saved a set point at 5-1 Wagner secured the set comfortably.

The American world No. 1 Wagner gained an early break in the deciding set before Lapthorne broke back after some tight exchanges. Another deuce game and Wagner regained a narrow 3-2 lead. Wagner held his next service game for 4-2 and maintained his cushion to make it 5-3 before Lapthorne saved two match points as he reduced the deficit to just one game. However, Wagner earned himself another opportunity to close out the match and eventually the 2011 champion regained the title 26 61 64.

“It is a real honour to win the Australian Open again,” said Wagner. “It was a fantastic match with a ton of fans watching, including Judy Murray. Andy played very well so congratulations to him on being both the singles and doubles finalist and a big thank you to all my fans.”

Men's Singles Draw

Women's Singles Draw

Quad Singles Draw

Men's Doubles Draw

Women's Doubles Draw

Quad Doubles Draw