In this weekly feature we’ll round up the results from our British wheelchair tennis stars competing around the globe.
You would think that in a week holding just two futures tournaments I might be able to put my feet up and relax. The problem with this is that one of the two futures tournaments is in Sheffield and, unsurprisingly, British players were there in abundance.
Nineteen players took to the court. Fourteen of them were playing under the red, white and blue of the Union Jack. However, all five foreign players were seeded so the chances of only three Brits remaining by the quarter-finals was perfectly plausible.
Due to the size of the draw, there were only three all-British first-round matches. Josh Cooper comfortably overcame the unranked Mark Langeveld whilst Nicholas Smelt made the most of his sixty-odd place rankings advantage to defeat Craig Nicholson. Meanwhile, Richard Green made the successful switch from Quads to Mens this week, as he annihilated Nathanial Lowe-Cordingley 6-1 6-0.
Most of the second round matches went according to script. Top seed, Dermot Bailey routinely dispatched Josh Cooper 6-4 6-0 whilst the other two seeded Brits also progressed; Scott Smith double bagelling James Shaw and Gregory Shea battling past James Brady in three tight sets. Unfortunately, Marc Francis, Ben Johnson-Rolfe, Nicholas Smelt and Richard Green were all beaten by seeded foreigners, with Francis the only one able to put some games on the board. However, there was one upset caused by 14 year-old prodigy Ruairi Logan. The youngster managed to record a comfortably victory over top #100 Irishman, Garreth Greene courtesy of a sublime display.
Logan’s superb run ended in the quarter-finals, as he met the in-form second seed Roland Nemeth. The Hungarian came through with a routine 6-0 6-1 victory. In fact, there would be just one Brit in the semi-final, as Demot Bailey knocked out Smith and Shea was defeated by Ayoub Ettali. The two victors met in the semi-finals but the Moroccan would be no match for the home favourite, with Bailey storming to the final with a 6-1 6-0 victory.
First and second seeds would clash in the final, with Bailey coming up against Nemeth. The pair had met just once before, with the Hungarian coming out a 12-10 winner in the final set. Things looked to be heading in the same direction when Nemeth claimed the first set 6-3. However, momentum then turned in the opposite direction with the Brit claiming the second 7-5. The pendulum would not swing back in the Bulgarian’s favour, with Bailey taking the third 6-2 and with it, his first title since last October.
— Tennis Foundation (@TennisFndation) April 24, 2016
It’s fair to say that the wheelchair ranking system is a fully functional and accurate success. As with the singles, the doubles semi-finals were also made up of the four seeded pairs. Dermot Bailey was once again the top seed as he paired up with Greek player Giorgos Lazaridis. They had defeated Cooper and Logan in the second round, after the British pair had come through a first round encounter against Johnson-Rolfe and Langeveld. Their semi-final opponents were Gregory Shea and Scott Smith, who had defeated Garreth Greene and Nicholas Smelt after both pairs received a bye through the first round.
In the bottom half of the draw, just one Brit made it to the semi’s, with Marc Francis and Ayoub Ettali facing Nemeth and Swede, Dan Wallin. Both pairs won with a bagel and a breadstick, with Ettali and Francis defeating Brady and Nicholson, whilst the Hungarian/Swedish pair defeated Green and Shaw.
There was a case of serious déjà vu in the doubles as Nemeth and Bailey once again found themselves on opposing sides of the net. The final itself was far less of a contest than the singles. They say sharing is caring and it seems that Bailey was prepared to share his success, as Nemeth and Wallin took home the trophy after a 6-3 6-1 victory.
It was a smaller field on the women’s side with nine Brits joined by a lone American ranger. In the first round, 51 year old Debbie Brazier rolled back the years to defeat Sarah Gaisford whilst the only other first round tie saw Caroline MacDonald defeat Deena Webster 6-1 6-4.
With just eight left in the competition, I’ll give you a quick moment to have a guess as to who made it through. Guessed? Well done, you were right. In a shocker, the four seeds cruised through to the semi-finals. Comfortably. Top seeed, Lauren Jones beat Brazier whilst Valerie Fisher defeated Andrea Weston. Elizabeth Williams was determined to keep American hopes alive as she won against Helen Bond. Finally, Luz Esperanza Merry beat MacDonald by a bagel and a breadstick.
I won’t beat around the bush – the semi-finals were no more competitive. Jones despatched Fisher 6-2 6-1 whilst Merry knocked out the American 6-3 6-4 to set up an all-British final. The tournament finally saw its first third set in the final, as Jones and Merry shared the opening two to take it to a decider. However, ranking played its part as Lauren Jones managed to emerge triumphant, earning her first title of 2016.
In the doubles tournament the singles finalists teamed up and, with a small field, required just two victories to take the title. In the final they defeated Fisher and MacDonald who had upset second seeds Bond and Braxier 6-3 6-1 one round earlier.