Photo: Paul ZimmerKgothatso Montjane (RSA)
Kgothatso Montjane became the first African player to advance to a Grand Slam wheelchair tennis semifinal on a fascinating first day of play at Roland Garros on Wednesday, during which five of the eight quarterfinals across the men’s and women’s singles events went to three sets.
As the second Grand Slam event on the 2013 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour got underway, world No. 6 Montjane clinched a tight opening set in her women’s singles quarterfinal against Dutchwoman Sharon Walraven on a tie-break after establishing an early mini break to move 3-1 ahead.
Walraven raced through the second set, but the South African held on to win the last two games of the match for a 76(5) 16 64 victory.
“I was playing a very experienced player today. I wish I could have played better, but it’s good that I pulled through and I believe there’s more left to work on in the next match,” said Montjane, who arrived in Paris on Monday, the day she and Rafael Nadal both turned 27 years-old.
Montjane, who became the first African player to contest a Grand Slam wheelchair tennis event at January’s Australian Open, will now face world No. 2 Jiske Griffioen in Thursday’s semifinals. Griffioen battled to a 61 57 64 win over fellow Dutchwoman and world No. 4 Marjolein Buis in her quarterfinal, reversing the result of their only previous meeting at Roland Garros in 2011, when Buis won their semifinal in three sets, and the result of their quarterfinal at this year’s Australian Open.
At the top of the women’s draw world No. 1 Aniek van Koot survived an early scare to beat Britain’s Lucy Shuker. Shuker came from 3-1 down to take the opening set against the Dutch top seed. Despite relinquishing a 4-0 lead in the third and deciding set Australian Open champion van Koot won the points that mattered to seal her 46 64 64 victory before admitting to the weight of expectation.
“The pressure is on me and I don’t want to fail and I am really feeling the pressure,” said van Koot.”I need to shake it off! But Lucy played amazing and gave it her all.”
Van Koot faces world No. 3 Sabine Ellerbrock in the semifinals, which will be a repeat of the Australian Open final. Ellerbrock recovered from 3-0 down in the first set against fellow Germany Katharina Kruger to claim a 64 64 win, thereby winning her first singles match at Grand Slam level.
Houdet overcomes Fernandez. Reid makes winning debut
World No. 2 Stephane Houdet got his men’s singles title defence underway by dominating the final set of his quarterfinal against world No. 4 Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina.
After collecting his first ITF World Champions Trophy just hours earlier, Houdet gained an early break en route to taking the first set from Fernandez, who had beaten the Frenchman in their previous two matches on hard courts in March. Fernandez built on a 3-0 second set lead to force a decider, but Houdet raced through the deciding set to close out a 63 46 60 victory.
Houdet will now play world No. 6 Gordon Reid in another enthralling match-up after the Brit marked his Grand Slam singles debut by beating world No. 9 Michael Jeremiasz. Jeremiasz won the last four games of the opening set before Reid gained an early break in the second set en route to levelling the match and the edged the last two games of a tense final set for a 26 64 75 victory.
“I’m delighted to win my first singles match at a Grand Slam,” said Reid. “It was quite an up and down match. He had a good start, but luckily I managed to turn it around and played some good tennis. I’m normally never nervous, but I was nervous today and he had a whole crowd behind him, so it was difficult conditions to play in. But once I relaxed I was pleased with the way I played.”
Reid will now bid to beat Houdet for the third time this season, having won their last match, which was on clay less than a month ago at the Internazionale d’Italia in Rome.
The most comprehensive win of the day belonged to Japan’s world No. 1 Shingo Kunieda, the 2011 and 2012 runner-up at Roland Garros, who needed just 47 minutes to power past world No. 7 Stefan Olsson of Sweden. In a rematch of the 2010 Roland Garros final, which Kunieda won to claim the most recent of his four titles in Paris, the two-time Paralympic champion dropped just the sixth game of the second set in a 60 61 win.
Kunieda now faces world No. 3 Makel Scheffers of the Netherlands at Roland Garros for the third year in a row after the 2011 champion beat fellow Dutchman Ronlad Vink 63 76(6). Vink fought back from 3-0 down in the second set, but Scheffers held on to earn the chance to try and avenge his quarterfinal loss to Kunieda in Paris last year.
First doubles finalists decided
There was an upset in the first of the women’s doubles semifinals as Ellerbrock and Walraven combined to beat second seeds Buis and Shuker.
In a closely fought contest Ellerbrock and Walraven won the big points to prevail 64 75, thereby ending hopes of a second successive Grand Slam final for Australian Open runners-up Buis and Shuker.
Top seeds and Australian Open champions Griffioen and van Koot will bid to improve on their semifinal loss at Roland Garros in 2012 when they take on Kruger and Montjane on Thursday.
Meanwhile, after reaching his first Grand Slam singles semifinal Reid partnered Vink to reach Friday’s men’s doubles final. Second seeds Reid and Vink led Fernandez and Olsson 5-3 in the second set of their doubles final, but had to withstand a brief comeback from their opponents before finally sealing a 61 75 win.
Top seeds Houdet and Kunieda will play Jeremiasz and Scheffers in the other semifinal.
Thursday's wheelchair tennis semifinals at Roland Garros take place on courts 7 and 11, starting from 11.00 local Paris time.
Men's Singles Draw
Women's Singles Draw
Men's Doubles Draw
Women's Doubles Draw
Schedule of Play - Thursday, 6 June 2013