Belgium’s Joachim Gerard showcased his exceptional serve at the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters in London, Great Britain, on Sunday (4 December), which proved to be too much for home favourite Gordon Reid.
The NEC Masters served as the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) year-end singles Championship for 22 of the world’s top players. Even more at stake was the men’s No. 1 ranking, which was expected to be contested between Reid and France’s Stephane Houdet and Rio 2016 gold medallist Reid.
However Gerard, who entered ranked No. 3, retained his title from last year, when he notably ended the 77-match winning streak of Japan’s Shingo Kunieda in the finals. This year, the Belgian dropped the first set against Reid but came back to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Gerard said he told himself at the end of the first set, “Now we stop the bleeding.”
It was not the way Reid hoped to end a great year that saw him win the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles.
“I may have started well, judging by the scoreline, but I never felt my serve was working too well, it was a bit inconsistent, the same with my returns,” Reid said. “And then [Gerard] got more confident on his serve and started nailing the spots and it was difficult for me to find any rhythm.”
The super slick courts at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre proved to play in favour of the Belgian’s serves, as Gerard’s opponents noted.
“On the serves Jo made the difference,” Houdet said. “He double-faulted a little bit at the end but still he came back with aces, aces, aces. And his serves compared to mine are closer to the lines, so even if he gives an angle to Gordon, Gordon can’t come back with a winner as he did against me, he just puts the ball back in the court.”
Gerard was not the only one to hold on to his title.
The Netherlands’ Jiske Griffioen was not exactly back in the groove after taking a couple of months off after the Paralympics, where she won two gold medals, in singles and doubles. She had suffered a straight set defeat to Japan’s Paralympic bronze medallist Yui Kamiji during the round-robin stage. So Griffioen re-evaluated her tactics and came up with 6-4, 6-4 victory over Kamiji in the finals to secure her third Masters title.
“We decided to take the return a little earlier because in the previous match I let the ball come and then that backhand slice is really low and it’s hard to do anything with it,” Griffioen said.
The USA’s David Wagner 6-4, 6-1 defeated Israel’s Itay Erenlib in the quad final for his ninth Masters title.
“I try to use a little more finesse than power,” said the 42-year-old. “By being a finesse player rather than a power player I’m probably not taking a pounding on my joints. I think the beauty of tennis is that there is always something to improve – that can be your speed, serve, volley, backhand, forehand. That’s kind of fun. You never get to perfect everything in tennis – nobody does. All I know is that I love it the same as when I first started.”
Complete results from the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters can be found on the ITF’s website.