Stephane Houdet and Shingo Kunieda won their first men’s title together at the third Grand Slam of the year, while Dutch duo Jiske Griffioen and Aniek van Koot retained their women’s title as the Wimbledon Wheelchair Doubles Event. The event, which is part of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour, drew to a close on Sunday with two fascinating finals in London.
Top seeds Houdet and Kunieda clinched a hard-won 64 62 victory in the men’s final after trailing second seeds Frederic Cattaneo of France and Ronald Vink of Netherlands 2-0 after the first two games. Houdet and Kunieda soon recovered the break and Cattaneo and Vink repelled two break points against them in the fifth game and then had a break point of their own in the next, only for both partnerships to remain level after the first six games of the match.
Houdet and Kunieda, last month’s Roland Garros champions, held to love as the two sets of finalists continued to share the games at 4-4, but Houdet’s huge forehand proved decisive in the ninth game as Vink dropped his serve for first time and Houdet and Kunieda moved ahead 5-4.
The French-Japanese partnership went on to earn themselves a set point in the next game and Houdet’s forehand again provided the breakthrough as he fired another forehand down the middle between Cattaneo and Vink to clinch the opening set after 41 minutes of play.
Houdet and Kunieda sealed their fourth game in a row to take a 1-0 lead in the second set before Cattaneo and Vink fought back, but Houdet’s forehand again found its mark as he and Kunieda, the 2010 runners-up at Wimbledon, opened up a clear advantage at 4-2.
With Houdet and Kunieda leading 5-2 they earned three match points, Cattaneo producing a superb return to save the first, while Houdet over hit a cross court backhand as the second slipped away. However, some great tactical play brought Houdet into the net on the third match point and he delicately slotted a backhand winner down the centre of the court one last time to complete the victory after an hour and 12 minutes.
“We were very solid today. I just played steady all the way through and Stephane was hitting some great shots,” said Kunieda. “After finishing runners-up in 2010 we are very happy to win our first Wimbledon title and for me it my second, so I am very happy,” added Kunieda, who was also victorious at The Championships in 2006 partnering fellow Japanese player Satoshi Saida.
For Houdet it was also a second Wimbledon title after he partnered fellow Frenchman Michael Jeremiasz to victory in 2009. Jeremiasz also finished on a winning note this year after he and Dutchman Tom Egberink, the 2012 champions, won the third and fourth place play-off with a 64 63 win over Britain’s Gordon Reid and Maikel Scheffers of Netherlands.
Griffioen and van Koot retain women’s title in tense final
After starting Friday’s second women’s semifinal having trouble with her newly-crafted serve, van Koot again had similar problems in the first game of the final. However, she was not the only one to have difficulties on serve as the four players took to the court on Britain's hottest day of the year so far, with eight successive breaks of serve in the opening set.
While the service return is often more dominant in wheelchair tennis, the eight successive service breaks came after some tremendous rallies throughout the opening set, with Griffioen and van Koot and Britain’s Jordanne Whiley and Japan’s Yui Kamiji producing some tremendously exciting tennis.
The crucial breakthrough came in the ninth game as van Koot’s third service game of the match brought three game points, with Whiley netting a backhand to give the Dutch defending champions the lead for the first time at 5-4. It was left to Whiley to try and serve to keep herself and Kamiji in the set, but they found themselves three set points down, with Whiley serving a double fault on the second set point.
Griffioen suggested a change in the pattern of the game as she hit an ace in the opening game of the second set, but after a double fault on game point Kamiji and Whiley gained started with a break, just as they had done in the first.
Kamiji and Whiley held two successive points for a service hold in the sixth game of the set, but even a third opportunity slipped away as the more experienced pairing of Griffioen and van Koot kept up the pressure and the exchange of games continued.
At 4-4 Griffioen and van Koot had two points to hold serve and, as in the opening set, they finally clinched the ninth game to seize the advantage.
However, the set was not to be a replica of the first and after Griffioen had held serve for the first time Kamiji and Whiley secured their first hold of the match before having two set points at 6-5 Successive errors from Whiley and then Kamiji saw both set points disappear and van Koot finally forced a tiebreak after firing a forehand winner down the centre of the court between her stranded opponents.
A third and deciding set looked to be on the cards as Kamiji and Whiley led the tiebreak 4-0, while Griffioen put too much pace on a backhand to give Kamiji and Whiley three more set points at 6-3.
But Griffioen and van Koot’s experience that had seen them win the previous three successive Grand Slam titles proved crucial and they found a way back into the tiebreak, with Whiley hitting the final shot of the match, a forehand that went into the net to complete a 64 76(6) victory for Griffioen and van Koot.
“Obviously we are delighted to retain our Wimbledon title,” said Griffioen. “It was a hot day and the sun was out, but I don’t think that was an excuse. None of us served too well and it wasn’t our best tennis. However, for us, it was good to play new opponents. It took us a while to see how they played and they were good, but we are very happy to have won a tough match.”
After going out to Kamiji and Whiley in the semifinals, second seeds Marjolein Buis of Netherlands and Lucy Shuker of Great Britain claimed the third place play-off, beating Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock and Dutchwoman Sharon Walraven 75 76(6).