Paris proved to be a happy hunting ground for Jiske Griffioen and Dylan Alcott as their victories in the French capital propelled them to the World No. 1 ranking spot in the women’s singles and men’s quads, respectively. This comes in at No. 16 in the International Paralympic Committee’s Top 50 Moments of 2015.
Griffioen’s victory over fellow Dutchwoman Aniek Van Koot at Roland Garros final came just weeks before Alcott defeated long-standing rival David Wagner of the USA at the Open de France Super Series in the men’s singles quads.
Singles success, finally
Griffioen was a dominant force in the doubles, having won 11 Grand Slams since claiming the 2006 Australian Open – as well as winning all four of the majors in 2013. But that level of success had not quite transferred over into her singles career — until 2015.
She reached the singles final at the 2006 Australian Open, but lost.
But then earlier this year, at her 10th attempt, she won the Australian Open, beating Japan’s Yui Kamiji in straight sets.
That victory seemed to transcend her form in the singles and acted as a catalyst towards achieving a No. 1 ranking in the months that followed.
She beat Van Koot in the final of Roland Garros in straight sets (6-0 6-2) to stamp her place at the top.
Griffioen went on to cap one of the best seasons of her career with the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters title.
“This win means a lot to me, especially because I had such a good first half to the season, winning my first two Grand Slam singles titles and becoming world No. 1,” Griffioen said after winning the NEC Masters.
“We worked on a lot of things from 2014, we changed some little things and it kind of all clicked into place. I was a little bit nervous because I’ve had some big fights already this week and I was feeling a little bit unwell. I was nervous about playing one more match, but once I got the first game at the start those nerves went away and only came back a little bit during the second set because she was so close.”
A new quads leader
Having been a promising player as a junior, in which at the age of 16 he was ranked amongst the world’s top five juniors, Alcott left tennis to pursue a career in wheelchair basketball.
He was part of the Australian gold-medal team at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics, and also the silver-medal team at London 2012.
However, after a seven-year exodus, Alcott decided to return to his first love of wheelchair tennis in 2014.
The early promise he demonstrated in his junior career was backed up earlier in 2015 as he won his maiden Grand Slam in the men’s quads singles at the Australian Open in January, just a year into his comeback.
That victory propelled him onto a path of success throughout this year, which continued through to the BNP Paribas Open de France Super Series event in the summer. Then, Alcott won the finals, which placed him at the top of the rankings.
He faced Wagner in the final of that event, and Alcott managed to seal the win in straight sets (6-1 6-2). Now, he looks to carry that over into Rio 2016.
While new No. 1 leaders were crowned this year in the women’s singles and quads, the men’s singles has been dominated by Shingo Kunieda.
While the Japanese standout still holds the No. 1 spot, Kunieda’s near-perfect season was spoiled in his last competition of 2015.
Belgium’s Joachim Gerard defeated Kunieda 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 to win his first Masters men’s singles title. He had beat Kunieda earlier in the tournament, which ended Kunieda’s 77-match winning streak. Gerard became the first player to earn back-to-back wins against the Japanese top seed since the summer of 2012.
“This has given me confidence ahead of Rio, but I know I still have to work a lot because I know Shingo will work a lot, as will everyone else,” Gerard said after his victory. “Now I have to train for about a month and then I’m going to Australia in January and will try to make my first Grand Slam final.”
To find out more about the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2015, visit the dedicated page on the IPC’s website.