In this fortnightly feature we’ll round up the results from our British wheelchair tennis stars competing around the globe.
Open de Vendee – ITF 3 Series
It’s a short hop over the channel for us in week 19 as our only active Brits were found in action in the West of France. In the Quads event, James Shaw and Richard Green graced the courts as they looked for their first titles of the year. As the third and fourth seeds respectively, they were awarded byes through to the quarter-final. Both made the most of their extra rest days, winning comfortably to move into the semis.
Richard faced top seeded Chilean Pable Araya whilst James found himself facing the hugely talented 16 year old Sam Schroder. The fast-improving Dutchman proved too much for James, overpowering him to win 6-3 6-0. However, there was a big shock in the other half of the draw, as Richard Green defeated Araya in straight sets in the first ever meeting between the pair. Schroder had already dispatched one Brit and unfortunately he made it two for two as Richard was at the end of a 6-2 6-4 defeat.
As if Schroder hadn’t dented British hopes enough this week, he had to go and make it a hat-trick in the doubles. Richard and James had a bye through the opening round and came up against Schroder and the Frenchman Sophie Fraioli. Despite taking the first set 6-2 they could not capitalise on their advantage, eventually losing a third set tie-break. There was some consolation as Schroder and Fraioli went on to win the doubles.
Lauren Jones was the sole British representative but her challenge did not last long as she exited in the first round to Italian Marianna Lauro. There was some success for Lauren in the doubles though as she competed alongside Mariska Venter. The pair broke late in the first set to win it 7-5 against Emilie Chene and Kaitlyn Verfuerth. However, their opponents levelled proceedings with a second set tie-break. Lauren and Mariska wrestled back momentum to win the final set tie-break and make it into the semi final. Top seeds Katharina Kruger and Lola Ochoa were their opponents and proved to be too strong for the Brit, ending Lauren’s week in France.
As with the women’s event there was just one Brit taking to the court in the men’s as David Bailey found himself immersed in a field littered with local talent. Funnily enough, he took on one of only four non-French players in the first round – Patxi Fadrique of Spain. Bailey dispatched the Spaniard in routine fashion before seeing off a local favourite in the quarter-final. That left him with a tricky semi-final against the talented Chinese player, Zujun Wei. Despite his best efforts, Bailey was unable to cause an upset, going down 6-2 7-5 to the eventual champion.
The 🇬🇧 challenge gets underway overnight at the Japan Open…and it’s a ‘Battle of the Brits’! All the best gents… pic.twitter.com/o9w6sH7zAH
— Tennis Foundation (@TennisFndation) May 16, 2016
There was remarkable symmetry in the doubles as Bailey found himself one again locking rackets with Zujun Wei. That was not until the final though. He and Gaetan Menguy first had to navigate through two rounds of all-French pairings. The final started disastrously for Dermot and Gaetan as they were bagelled by Wei and his French partner. Despite putting in a much more valiant fight in the second set, they still lost on a tie-break, to leave British players without a trophy in France.
Japan Open – ITF Super Series
Out in Japan many of the world’s finest wheelchair competitors gathered for a super series event of sublime depth. Six Brits joined the impressive line-up, spread out nicely across the three different events.
The British poster boy for wheelchair tennis, Gordon Reid, was in attendance but drew a familiar face in the first round. Rewarded with a wildcard for his recent upturn in form, Alfie Hewitt, must have been cursing his luck as he came up against his friend Gordon in the opening round. The all British tie was closer than expected, with Alfie upsetting the script in snatching the second set. Gordon pulled himself together to take the third set and move into the second round.
After his laborious first round match, Gordon made light work of his next two matches to make it through to the semi-finals. There he was faced with Joachim Gerard, who he famously beat to claim the Australian Open back in January. There would be no heroics this time around though as the Belgian comfortably came through 6-2 6-2.
The two Brits joined forces in the doubles and marched through, brushing aside pair after pair to reach yet another final. As predicted, the second seeds came up against the French first seeds, Stephane Houdet and Michael Jeremiasz. It looked like the title would be heading to British soil as Gordon and Alfie took the first set 6-4. However, the French pair upped their game, fighting back to win the next two sets and prevent the British pair from success.
— Jordanne Whiley MBE (@jordannejoyce92) May 21, 2016
Fourth seed Jordanne Whiley looked in devastating form as she double bageled her second round opponent. However, the celebrations were short lived, as the fifth seeded German, Sabine Ellerbrock, produced a sensational display to upset Whiley 6-2 6-1. Jordanne recovered extremely well though in the doubles to rejoin long time partner Yui Kamiji and romp to the title, dropping just nine games in the process. The pair will hope to carry their form into Roland Garros, where they are looking for their first Grand Slam title since Wimbledon last year.
The bulk of British interests were to be found in the Quads event where three regulars were lurking. All three of Andy Lapthorne, Jamie Burdekin and Antony Cotterill were seeded so each received a bye through the opening round. Both Andy and Antony won their matches in straight sets to set up an all-British quarter-final but there was a major shock in the other half of the draw. Jamie became the only seeded player not to progress as he was upset by the former world number one Nicholas Taylor.
In the all British clash Andy was always pegged as the favourite and duly delivered, defeating Antony 6-2 6-2 to set up a semi-final clash with David Wagner. The 42 year old American had won his last three matches against Andy and was not prepared to let that run slip this week, coming through two close sets 6-4 6-4 to end British interest in the singles.
— andy lapthorne (@lapstar11) May 21, 2016
There was no room for Antony in the doubles event but Jamie and Andy were paired up as the second seeds, receiving a bye through the opening round. They breezed through their quarter-final clash but were made to sweat by third seeds Itay Erenlib and Lucas Sithole. The outsiders snatched the first set before the Brits roared back to book a place in the final with a 2-6 6-4 6-3 victory.
Familiar faces greeted them in the final as they found Nicholas Taylor and David Wagner greeting them in a final for the second time this year. Last time out, in Pensacola, they squeezed through, winning a third set tie-break but this time was far more routine. After coming through a tight opener 7-5, the stuffing was knocked out of their opponents, and they sealed the title with a 6-2 second set.
There is an exciting fortnight of wheelchair action to come over the next few weeks, with the Wheelchair World Team Cup currently ongoing in Japan followed by next week’s French Open.