Photo: Lu Guang / Chen GongNicholas Taylor and David Wagner (USA)
LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: Nick Taylor of USA is unbeaten in quad doubles at the Paralympic Games, together with his partner David Wagner, who is currently the world No. 1 ranked quad singles player and also a two-time medallist in quad singles. Taylor is currently ranked No. 4 in doubles and No. 6 in singles.
Quad singles and doubles events made their debut in the Paralympic Tennis Event in Athens in 2004 and victory in Athens and Beijing helped cement Taylor and Wagner’s status as arguably the most prolific quad doubles partnership in the sport to date.
“Obviously it was an honour to get to win the first Paralympic gold medal in quad doubles. We were very thankful to all the players before who led the battle to get us where we were,” says Taylor. “I would say that say that winning the two gold medals were about equal in terms of an experience. They both had very special things about them. The one part of it that made the Beijing thing a bit more special, perhaps, was that it went to a third set.
“I’m not saying it wasn’t special before that, but sometimes the longer a match goes on there’s a lot more emotion to it. In Athens it was straight sets all the way, but there was also a lot of emotion there, as it was the first one.”
As well as being part of the one of the most successful doubles partnerships in the sport today, Taylor has made caught the imagination around the world, and will be the only player in the quad events at London 2012 to play in a powerchair. Born with arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that restricts muscular development, Taylor has perfected a serve that involves him holding the tennis ball between his feet and flicking it upwards before powering his underarm swing through the ball. A play on words has popularly described it in an internet video as ‘the greatest kick serve of them all’.
Taylor is by no means the only powerchair user on the year-long Wheelchair Tennis Tour, but his success (he is a former world No. 1 quad singles player) has drawn media attention from many directions and in Beijing in 2008 the Chinese media and spectators, especially, took him to their hearts.
“That was really cool, it was an unbelievable experience,” recalls Taylor. I played my quarterfinal against Bas (van Erp of the Netherlands) and there were many thousands of people there. I went a set and 2-5 and 15-40 down and won it. It really registered then how big that had got really quick.
“When the match was over I went upstairs to the public area to try to talk to my family who were there and within 30 seconds I was just swamped and I didn’t move for well over an hour and a half. It was just really cool and a fun experience.”
Taylor is hoping for a similar crowd experience in London, with wheelchair tennis among the sports to have had record ticket sales.
“From what I’ve seen here going through the Olympic Park here, there are people everywhere and I really think many of them will come over to watch the tennis when we start up. A third gold is definitely the goal and if we were able to win it it would be the hardest one. This is the toughest competition, I think, by far.”
After playing in two bronze medal matches in quad singles, Taylor is realistic, but hopeful for his singles prospects in London.
“For me the focus is a little bit more on doubles, because you focus where your success is. But singles here, it will be what it’ll be. I’ll play the best that I can. Being in Athens and Beijing and being fourth, it’s about the toughest place you can finish. Obviously at these Games I would love to pull a singles medal out, but it’s far less likely than it was in 2004 and 2008, but again that’s due to the competition level. I’d love to pull it off. I’m sure going to try my hardest.”