Lucas Sithole joined defending champion David Wagner in the quad singles final at the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters after beating Britain’s Andy Lapthorne in their vital final round-robin match on Thursday in Mission Viejo, California.
After beating Lapthorne in three sets in their final round-robin match at the US Open in September before going on to become the first African to win a Grand Slam wheelchair tennis title, world No. 2 Sithole completed a straight sets win this time, defeating Britain’s two-time NEC Masters runner-up 75 61.
With Wagner having won his first two matches to ensure his place in another final, the world No. 1 completed the round-robin phase of the competition unbeaten after a 61 60 victory over his doubles partner, world No. 4 Nick Taylor.
Fernandez and Houdet join Gerard and Kunieda in men’s semis
Gustavo Fernandez and Stephane Houdet joined Belgium’s Joachim Gerard and Japan’s Shingo Kuneida in the men’s singles semifinals after the Argentinian and Frenchman both fought back from a set down to win their decisive final pool matches.
Kunieda ended the round-robin phase of the competition with a first ever loss to world No. 8 Nicolas Peifer of France and will now play Houdet in Saturday’s semifinals in a match that could prove crucial to the year-end world No. 1 ranking. Fernandez will play Gerard for a place in the final.
With both world No. 4 Gordon Reid and world No. 5 Fernandez attempting to reach the NEC Masters semifnals for the first time after making their debuts in the event in 2012, the Briton narrowly took the opening set. But, having won a second set tiebreak to keep his challenge alive against Peifer in his second match on Wednesday, Fernandez again held on before claiming the important points in the deciding set to seal a 46 75 64 victory and earn his progress out of Pool 1 alongside Kunieda.
Current world No. 1 Kunieda had won his first two matches to ensure his spot in the semifinals, while Peifer had lost both of his first two round-robin contests against Reid and Fernandez. However, the Frenchman turned the form upside down after he and defending champion Kunieda split two one-sided sets and Peifer went on to claim a tense final set tie break. His 16 61 76(5) victory earned him his first career win over Kunieda in 17 matches, having never previously taken a set off the Japanese player.
Current world No. 2 Houdet, the 2011 NEC Masters champion, went a set down to his fellow Frenchman and world No. 7 Michael Jeremiasz, but reeled off the third and deciding set without dropping a game for a 46 63 60 victory.
Having lost his opening match this week to world No. 6 Gerard, Houdet finishes runner-up to the Belgian in Pool 2. Gerard continued to make his NEC Masters debut a memorable tournament after winning his final round-robin match against Dutch world No. 3 Maikel Scheffers 61 63.
Gerard’s win means that he goes through to the semifinals having beaten two of the world’s top three ranked players, while 2009 NEC Masters champion Scheffers will hope for a better time in the Doubles Masters after losing all three of his round-robin singles matches.