“My two strong points were my serve and my return, and I just tried to play my tennis. This is for sure the best achievement of my career. It’s the best eight players in the world here and I’ve won which is amazing."
Belgium’s Joachim Gerard is now the man to beat after defeating Japan’s legendary Shingo Kunieda twice in four days to become the new NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters champion. The Netherlands’ Jiske Griffioen wrapped up her incredible season with the NEC Master’s women’s singles title, and the USA’s David Wagner won the quad division, as the tournament concluded on Sunday (6 December) in London, Great Britain.
Gerard won the last six games of the finals against the three-time NEC Masters champion. When the final point was sealed in his 7-5 2-6 6-3 victory, Gerard broke into tears as he embraced his coach at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.
Just over three years ago at this same venue, Kunieda was the one who celebrated ecstatically as he defended his Paralympic Games title.
“For the moment I’m just happy - very, very happy - because to win and beat Shingo twice,” Gerard said. “My two strong points were my serve and my return, and I just tried to play my tennis. This is for sure the best achievement of my career. It’s the best eight players in the world here and I’ve won which is amazing.
Gerard spoiled Kunieda’s undefeated season, as his 77-match winning streak was snapped on Thursday (3 December) during the earlier rounds.
“It was a tough match for me but I don’t think I played badly, he played very well,” said Kunieda. “Joachim played a good game from 3-0 down, especially his serve and his return of serve which was excellent.”
Griffioen, who moved into No. 1 in the women’s singles this year for the first time in her career, showed why she is the one to beat come Rio 2016. The Dutch defeated Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock 6-2 6-2 to remain unbeaten throughout the Masters.
“I had such a good first half to the season winning my first two Grand Slam singles titles and becoming world No. 1,” said Griffioen. “I struggled a little bit more in the second half, so to finish with this one means a lot to me.”
Wagner nabbed his eighth NEC Masters title, defeating South Africa’s Lucas Sithole 7-6(6) 6-4. The quads No. 1 player Dylan Alcott of Australia withdrew prior to the competition, which was the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) year-end singles championship.
“Now we shift goals and focus towards Rio, again,” Wagner said. “Same guys, same young guys looking to take what I have and my goal is to not let that happen.”
Complete recap and results of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters can be found on the event website.