Hewett takes on Gerard in Roland Garros wheelchair action

World No.2 Yui Kamiji will lock horns with her doubles partner Jordanne Whiley in the women's action 04 Jun 2021
Great Britain’s Alfie Hewett
Great Britain’s Alfie Hewett poses with his second Roland Garros men’s singles title in 2020

The winners of the last two wheelchair Grand Slam men’s singles titles will go head to head in the first-round matches at Roland Garros after defending champion Alfie Hewett was drawn to meet reigning Australian Open champion Joachim Gerard.

Should the contest produce the same kind of three-set drama as both their 2020 Roland Garros final and February’s title decider at Melbourne Park, where Gerard won his first career Grand Slam singles title, then onlookers are sure to be in for a treat as Hewett sets out as one of three men’s players in search of a third title in Paris.

Three former champions feature in the bottom half of the men’s singles draw, with two-time champion Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina taking on Frenchman Nicolas Peifer.

Meanwhile, seven-time champion Shingo Kunieda of Japan plays Britain's Gordon Reid for a place in the semis as the world No 1 bids to follow up on his quarter-final win over Reid last week in Le Touquet. The victor will meet the winner of the all-French contest between 2012 and 2013 champion Stephane Houdet and wild card entry Frederic Cattaneo.

Argentinian wheelchair tennis player Gustavo Fernandez celebrates screaming at the sky after winning Roland Garros
Gustavo Fernandez seeks to win his third Roland Garros title Ⓒ Getty Images

While Kunieda beat Reid in the last eight at the Open des Hauts-de-France last week, the ITF 1 event’s other British-Japanese contest came in the women’s singles final – a much closer affair as world No 2 Yui Kamiji came from 5-3 down in the final set to edge out doubles partner Jordanne Whiley.

Best friends Kamiji and Whiley are drawn to play each other again at Roland Garros, this time for a semi-final berth as they meet in Paris for just the second time since 2014. Seven years ago, they also went head-to-head in the quarter-finals.

This year’s other three women’s quarter-finals feature players making their Roland Garros debuts. Wild card entry Emmanuelle Morch faces world No 3 Aniek Van Koot in what will be Morch’s first ever Grand Slam match.

American Dana Mathewson plays South Africa’s Kgothatso Montjane and Angelica Bernal plays world No 1 Diede De Groot.

South African wheelchair tennis player Kgothatso-Montjane playing on clay
Kgothatso Montjane is hoping to reach her first Grand Slam singles final Ⓒ Getty Images

Bernal, became the first Colombian player to contest a wheelchair Grand Slam at last year’s US Open, where she faced world No 2 Kamiji in her opening match.

The world’s top four quad singles players will make their tournament bows on Saturday, when world No 1 Dylan Alcott opens his bid for a third successive Roland Garros title against world No 4 David Wagner, the player he beat in the inaugural singles final in Paris in 2019.

Alcott beat both Dutchman Sam Schroder and world No 2 Andy Lapthorne on his way to the title at last October’s rearranged Roland Garros, and Lapthorne and US Open champion Schroder will go head-to-head in this year's other semi-final. Alcott and Schroder will pair up later in the week to face Lapthorne and Wagner in the quad doubles.

Houdet and Peifer, Hewett and Reid and Fernandez and Kunieda have become regular doubles partnerships at the Grand Slams in recent years, and just seven months on from Roland Garros 2020, all four men’s doubles teams who played on the iconic red clay last October return again.

The major difference is that the semi-final line-ups are the other way around, with top seeds Hewett and Reid set to open their title defence over the weekend against 2019 champions Fernandez and Kunieda, while two-time champions Houdet and Peifer will take on Cattaneo and Gerard.

All three wheelchair doubles finals at Roland Garros 2020 were decided in match tie-breaks and last year's women’s doubles finalists line up again.

Top seeds and reigning champions De Groot and Van Koot are drawn to play Mathewson and Montjane in the semi-finals, while second seeds and former champions Kamiji and Whiley will face Bernal and Morch.