"Gerard and Peifer had not met since the last of their seven head-to-heads in 2009 and their last two matches had gone to three sets."
Belgium’s Joachim Gerard had an outstanding victory on the first day of the Japan Open, a part of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour, when he beat world No. 5 Nicolas Peifer of France to reach the second round of the men’s singles in Iizuka, Fukuoka.
Gerard and Peifer had not met since the last of their seven head-to-heads in 2009 and their last two matches had gone to three sets. Three years on and their latest contest did not disappoint as Gerard, ranked No. 2 fought back from a set down to beat Peifer 3-6 6-3 7-5.
Also among the feature matches on the first day was Robin Ammerlaan’s 7-6 6-4 victory over Japanese world No. 10 and 2011 semifinalist Takashi Sanada. World No. 7 Ammerlaan, who won the Japan Open title in 2004, will play Sweden’s Peter Vikstrom in the second round.
Netherlands’ world No. 1 Maikel Scheffers – also in the top half of the draw – opened his bid for a first Japan Open title with a 6-2 6-2 victory over Britain’s Marc McCarroll, with whom Scheffers won the men’s doubles at last week’s Atlanta Open.
World No. 1 ranked junior Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina could be a formidable second round opponent for Scheffers. He recently beat Australia’s Ben Weekes 6-3 6-0 and swapped senior world ranking places with him.
The main point of interest in the bottom half of the draw came in the match between Britain’s world No. 11 Gordon Reid and Thailand’s Sumrerng Kruamai. Kruamai threatened to produce another upset when he took the second set from Reid, but Reid soon put the result beyond doubt when he wrapped up a 6-1 4-6 6-0 victory.
Reid will face defending champion Shingo Kunieda in the second round. World No. 3 Kunieda, who is bidding for his seventh straight Japan Open title, sped through the first set of his first match since September 6-0 before his Korean opponent Ha-Gel Lee had to retire.
On paper, the first round contest between world No. 8 Stefan Olsson of Sweden and former Japan Open champion and world No. 9 Satoshi Saida looked like a mouth watering prospect, but Olsson made relatively short work of his opponent with a 6-2 6-1 win. World No. 12 Frederic Cattaneo of France promises to pose a great challenge for Olsson in the second round.
After Peifer’s demise, the three remaining French players are all in the bottom half of the draw. Sixth seed Michael Jeremiasz will play Dutch world No. 13 Tom Egberink in the second round, while 2011 runner-up Stephane Houdet posted the only 6-0 6-0 win of the day in the men’s singles to set up a contest against Australia’s Adam Kellerman.
Two of the three women’s singles matches played on the first day involved all Japanese players as Yuko Okabe beat Miho Nijo 7-6 6-2 to earn the right to become the first opponent for Dutch world No. 2 and top seed Aniek van Koot.
Kanako Domori also beat Yumiko Inoue 6-0 6-1 and will play South Africa’s Kgothatso Montjane. World No. 11 Katharina Kruger of Germany beat Chinese Taipei’s Yi-Shan Wu with exactly the same score as the Domori-Inoue game, and Kruger will now face world No. 9 Sharon Walraven.
The six matches played in the quad singles resulted in wins for Italian players Antonio Raffaele and Marco Innocenti, who join their countryman Giuseppe Polidori, who was awarded a bye, in the second round.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Shota Kawano edged out his compatriot and former Japan Open finalist Tzu- Hsuan Huang 6-4 6-4 to book his place in the second round against world No. 1 and defending champion David Wagner of USA. World No. 2 Peter Norfolk of Great Britain will play Japan’s Shinichi Hirata for a place in the quarterfinal after Hirata won his all-Japanese first round match against Takashi Nagaoka 6-1 7-5.
The Japan Open continues until 19 May.