Maikel Scheffers, Esther Vergeer and Peter Norfolk won the men’s, women’s and quad singles titles as the Australian Open Wheelchair Championships, a part of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour, drew to a fascinating end on Saturday at Melbourne Park.
For the first time since the Australian Open Wheelchair Championships have been held alongside the second week of the first Grand Slam of the year there were Dutch winners of both the men’s and women’s singles titles.
However, world No. 1 Scheffers was made to work hard for the second Grand Slam title of his career after dropping the first set of the men’s final to French world No. 5 Nicolas Peifer.
With both players having reached their third Grand Slam final apiece, Peifer looked like he might be on course to land his first Grand Slam title after he came from 3-1 down in the opening set to convert two of his six break point opportunities.
Scheffers converted his second break point opportunity of the match to level at 4-4 in the second set, but Peifer continued to have the edge as he served for the match at both 5-4 and 6-5 up, only for Scheffers to force a tiebreak.
The Dutchman raced into a 6-2 lead in the tiebreak, converting his second set point to force the decider and then broke the Frenchman’s serve to love to lead the third and final set 3-0.
A third deuce game in the first give games of the third set aw Peifer have an opportunity to get on the score board, but he was unable to take it and with the momentum now all in his favour Scheffers went on to convert his second match point for a 36 76(2) 60 victory to add a first Australian Open title to the Roland Garros title he won in 2011.
“I feel really happy at the moment. It was a big fight between us. Nico is a good player, so yep, I feel good," said Scheffers.
“It's not a strategy, I'm more happy when I finish it in two sets, but it's my mentality and I fight for it. I know sometimes i'm starting a little bit slow. Today, I came better in the first set, I came 3-1 up, but I Iost the first set with 6-3. I know I'm a fighter and I go for it. I lost three times the first set (this week), but I won the match."
"I just talked to my parents and my girlfriend and they're really happy, as well, and yeah, let's see what I can do this year more. I've got a lot to defend this year, but I like that and it's all about the titles."
Norfolk wins fifth Australian Open title
Peter Norfolk has started each of the last two Paralympic Games years by winning the quad singles title at the Australian Open and the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic champion sent a message out to his nearest rivals ahead of London 2012 as he achieved the same at Melbourne Park again this year. However, as with Scheffers, Norfolk had to come from a set down
The world No. 2 ranked Briton edged into a 3-1 first set lead, only for world No. 1 and defending champion Wagner to hit back and secure four games in a row en route to taking the opening set.
But with the help of the fifth of his ninth aces during the match Norfolk came from a break down to lead the second set 2-1 and he never relinquished the advantage again. He extended his lead to 3-1 after the third deuce game of the set and broke Wagner’s serve to love to level the match.
The fourth game of the third and final set included multiple deuces, with both players having the opportunity to win it, but Norfolk one again had the edge to lead 3-1 and he then held his own serve to love before going on to build a commanding 5-1 advantage.
After Wagner had reduced his arrears to make it 5-2 Norfolk went on to earn himself two match points and only needed the first to wrap up a 46 64 62 victory and regain the title he last won in 2010.
"I struggled for a while out there to find my game but I love the pressure of playing in a major final and I knew if I stuck with it, I could find my rhythm," said Norfolk .
"I'm absolutely thrilled with my fifth singles title at the Australian Open and I hope I can use this as my base for a very successful 2012."
Norfolk leaves Melbourne having won both the quad singles and quad doubles titles at the same Grand Slam for the first time in his career, after partnering fellow Briton Andy Lapthorne to win the Australian Open quad doubles title on Thursday. It is something that Wagner has achieved before, although at the US Open in New York.
Vergeer powers to another title defence to extend winning streak
The final day of the Australian Open Wheelchair Championships got off to a familiar start as Esther Vergeer powered her way to a successful women’s single title defence.
After beating Australia’s Daniela di Toro 60 60 in the 2011 final Vergeer served up the same dominance against her compatriot and current world No. 2 Aniek van Koot in this year’s final, completing another 60 60 victory after just 47 minutes. Vergeer ends the 2012 Australian Open having dropped just four games in her three matches.
“I’ve been playing her (van Koot) for the last couple of weeks in the tournaments I’ve played, so I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I knew exactly what the circumstances would be on Show Court 2," said Vergeer about her victory in the final. "So I had my plan and it just totally worked out. I forced her to make some errors. She wanted to play hard, she wanted to play with a lot of pressure and I just worked on keeping the ball back and it worked out."
"I've been very relaxed. I've been playing a couple of tournaments in front of this tournament here in Melbourne and in Sydney and, I don't know, I feel good, you know the weather, the circumstances, but also my mind set is very calm and I take that on court and I can just have a good overview of what's happening and I can just make my plan and play the plan."
"It’s absolutely amazing (the winning streak) that it’s that big of a number and of course, I’m not just playing for keeping the record on, but it’s amazing and, you know, having this one goal of a gold medal in London this year during the Paralympics Games, this is a good start. It gives me a lot of confidence for the other tournaments that are coming up this year and hopefully I’m going to keep the winning streak going, but, you know, we’ll see.”