Stephane Houdet: Fernandez can win Rio 2016 goldFrenchman Stephane Houdet talks about rising wheelchair tennis star Gustavo Fernandez after facing him at Roland Garros. 18 Jun 2013
“It’s difficult to choose between Gustavo and Shingo, but because of the clay, and if it’s not me, I’m going to bet on Gustavo.”
Stephane Houdet credits his robust meals of dried fruits, couscous and sugar for his second consecutive Roland Garros singles title earlier this month on his home court in Paris, France.
He also nonchalantly mentioned he had the advantage of playing at the same courts he trains at on a regular basis.
“I can’t sleep at all now because it’s all really exciting,” said Houdet, who is busy with sponsor and speaking engagements, as well as photo shoots and the opening of a new tennis complex.
The No. 2-ranked player defeated Japan’s world No. 1 Shingo Kunieda in a three-hour, three-set final match for the title on 7 June before partnering with him later in the day to win the doubles title.
“I had the feeling that I was at home,” Houdet told Paralympic.org.
“When I woke up in the morning the day of the final, I had the feeling that it was my first match. Last year, I was very, very tired and my muscles were very tired, too. This year, even on the third set, I had good energy.
“But the draw was very, very tough for me because in the first round I had to play Gustavo Fernandez, who is the new top player,” Houdet added. “Nineteen years old and he’s beaten me twice. It was a tough match to start.”
At 42, right-handed hitter Houdet is still easily one of the best wheelchair tennis players in the world, but last year’s Paralympic singles silver medallist received tough challenges from up-and-coming Fernandez and Great Britain’s Gordon Reid in Paris this month.
Houdet specifically changed his wheelchair from 3kg to 1kg wheels in order to keep up with the rising stars in the sport.
Although Houdet’s toughest opponent the last two years has been Kunieda, he argues Fernandez and himself will have the advantage come the Rio 2016 Games, as the competition will most likely be held on clay.
Wheelchair tennis players from Argentina, France and Spain have a lot more experience on the aforementioned surface, making Houdet’s Rio 2016 gold-medal matchup prediction a decisive one.
“It’s difficult to choose between Gustavo and Shingo, but because of the clay, and if it’s not me, I’m going to bet on Gustavo,” Houdet said.
The Frenchman, who has a career singles record of 325-95, will be 46 by the time Rio 2016 rolls around, but he vows he will still attempt to fill in the golden void on his wheelchair tennis singles resume.
“As far as I can compete for the win, I’ll be there,” Houdet said. “As soon as I’m behind and out of the top 10, I’ll let it go.
“I don’t want to fight to be No. 11.”