Gustavo Fernandez and Nicolas Peifer, last year’s men’s singles finalists, will meet each other in the first round of this year’s Australian Open when the first Grand Slam on the 2018 UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour gets underway on Wednesday (24 January) at Melbourne Park.
With Fernandez needing to retain his title this week to remain as world No.1 he is set to meet world No.7 Peifer at one of the four majors for the fourth time in the last 12 months. The Argentinian top seed followed up his 3-6 6-2 6-0 win last year in Melbourne with a straight sets semifinal win at Roland Garros and a three set quarterfinal win at the US Open in New York before Peifer ended 2017 by beating Fernandez at the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters.
Drawn in the top half of the men’s draw along with Fernandez and Peifer are reigning US Open champion Stephane Houdet and Australian wild card entry Adam Kellerman, who will meet in the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park for the second time since 2015.
After all four of last year’s Grand Slam men’s singles events were won by different players, reigning Roland Garros champion Alfie Hewett will face reigning Wimbledon champion Stefan Olsson. Current world No. 2 Hewett stands to profit if Fernandez is unable to defend his title this week and while there’s the prospect of them meeting in the final, of course, Hewett’s first aim will be to win his first Australian Open singles match after bowing out early 12 months ago against Houdet.
World No.4 Gordon Reid and eight-time Australian Open champion Shingo Kunieda meet in the other men’s singles quarter final, Reid having won their first round match two years ago before going on to win his first career Grand Slam singles title in Australia.
Kunieda opened 2018 by winning his first Super Series title since 2015 in Sydney and after missing last year’s Australian Open as he continued to recover from injury, Japan’s world No.5 goes into this week’s tournament seeking a first Grand Slam crown since the 2015 US Open.
Kamiji opens women's title defence against Buis
The only previous Grand Slam singles champions set to meet on the opening day of competition in the women’s singles are defending champion Yui Kamiji and her doubles partner and world No.5 Marjolein Buis.
Kamiji, who won her first Australian Open singles title in 2017, has built a sequence of six successive wins against Buis since the Dutchwoman gained the most recent of her wins in any of their head-to-heads at Roland Garros in 2016. Buis went on to win her first Grand Slam singles crown.
Wednesday’s contest will be their second quarter final at Melbourne Park after Kamiji won in straight set in 2014. Kamiji is unbeaten in seven matches in two tournaments so far this season.
The winner of Buis and Kamiji’s match will play either 2014 Australian Open champion and world No.4 Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany or Britain’s world No.6 Lucy Shuker, who defeated Buis in the 2017 quarterfinals at Melbourne Park. Ellerbrock and Shuker will meet for the first time at a Grand Slam since Ellerbrock won their 2013 Australian Open semifinal.
In the bottom half of the women’s draw Dutch world No. 2 Diede de Groot meets Germany’s wild card entry and world No. 8 Katharina Kruger at a Grand Slam for the very first time. Like Hewett in the men’s singles, de Groot’s first task this year will be to register her first Australian Open singles match win after a straight sets loss to Ellerbrock on her debut at Melbourne Park in 2017.
Alcott to face Lapthorne as quad singles begins
Wednesday’s first of three days of round-robin competition in the quad singles sees three-time Australian Open champion Dylan Alcott face world No. 2 Andy Lapthorne in a rematch of last year's final.
The contest sees Alcott, winner of the Sydney International Open two weeks ago, return to the courts after taking a week’s break from competition to fulfil broadcast commitments at Melbourne Park, where the current world No. 3 formed an impromptu doubles partnership with actor Will Smith.
Alcott and Lapthorne last met in the round-robin phase of the US Open in New York last season, with Lapthorne winning on that occasion before finishing runner-up to Wagner in the final.
Wagner 's won the first Grand Slam of the year in 2011, 2013 and 2014 before Alcott went on to claim the title in each of the last three years. USA's world No. 1 faces Alcott's countryman Heath Davidson in his opening match this time at Melbourne Park.
The top two players at the end of the round-robin phase of the competition will go forward to Saturday’s quad singles final.