Wheelchair tennis crowned two new Grand Slam champions on Saturday (4 June) when Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez and the Netherlands’ Marjolein Buis lifted the Roland Garros trophies.
For 22-year-old Fernandez, the victory was third time lucky in hoisting the trophy after defeating British reigning Australian Open champion Gordon Reid 7-6(4), 6-1. Fernandez had previously been in two Grand Slam finals – 2014 Australian and US Opens – but lost both times to Japan’s Shingo Kunieda.
On Friday, when Fernandez reached the final, he was asked what it would mean to win Roland Garros. His reply was to ask him on Saturday if he is victorious.
“I still can’t believe it,” said a tearful Fernandez after his win. “This Grand Slam was my obsession since I’m little and saw [Gaston] Gaudio and [Guillermo] Coria play the final here [in 2004]. I am out of words and just can’t describe the feeling right now.
“It’s been a long journey, a lot of suffering, a lot of work and a lot of time trying to do it,” he added. “There was a lot of time hitting the wall, picking up again, hitting the wall and picking up again. Now everything has come down to this moment.”
Fernandez played consistent tennis, utilised penetrating strokes throughout the week, and most especially in the final against Reid.
Two former Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) stars from Argentina in Jose Luis Clerc, a former No. 4 in the world who won 25 titles, and Agustin Calleri, who ranked as high as No. 16 and won two titles in his career, watched Fernandez’s final.
“It means a lot to me that Clerc was there because he’s one of the two or four best players from Argentina of all times,” Fernandez said. “It’s amazing to have had him support me.”
Clerc said: “It’s unbelievable. I know Gustavo for a long time. The way these guys play and try 100 per cent on each ball, everything is important, and it’s just amazing to watch. I’m so happy that a guy from Argentina won Roland Garros, it’s just gorgeous.”
Buis seals first Grand Slam title
Buis put forth a confident 6-3, 6-4 win over Germany’s two-time Grand Slam champion Sabine Ellerbrock, who last won in the 2014 Australian Open title.
“I’m extremely happy I won my first Grand Slam here,” Buis said. “I was very nervous when finishing it, but I did it in the end, so I’m very excited.”
Buis was no stranger to the Roland Garros final, having played in it in 2011, when she lost to countrywoman Esther Vergeer. Buis only won two games in that Championship match.
“I think it’s great that it was in Paris because it’s relatively close to the Netherlands,” Buis, 28, said. “So a lot of family and friends came out here to support me today, which is very nice to have a lot of people cheering for you in the seats.”
In the last game, Buis was serving and fell behind 0-40 before rebounding to deuces with three return winners and closing it out on the next two points.
“I actually planned on finishing it at 5-3, 30-0 up, but then the nerves [came],” Buis said. “[Sabine] won that game, but I thought at 0-40 [in the final game], ‘Get over your nerves and just hit that ball hard and hit those winners’ and it happened.”
Buis is returning to Wimbledon (7-10 July) after many years away because she does not favour the grass. From there, she has her sights set on the Rio Paralympics – in London she won gold in the doubles.
“I have the goal to win a medal in singles especially,” said Buis, of the upcoming Paralympics. “After this week, especially, I set my goal to gold. Of course, I’m happy with whatever medal I can win there in singles, and I want to win gold in doubles. That’s the main focus for this year.”
The second-seeded pairing of Japan’s Yui Kamiji and Great Britain’s Jordanne Whiley won their second Roland Garros title with a 6-3, 4-6 (10-6) final victory over top seeds Jiske Griffioen and Aniek Van Koot of Netherlands.
In men’s doubles, second seeds Kunieda and Reid secured the title with a 6-3, 6-2 win over France’s Michael Jeremiasz and Sweden’s Stefan Olsson.
Complete wheelchair tennis results from Roland Garros can be found on the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) website.