Houdet expects open tournament at Flushing Meadow

The French defending champion believe any of the top wheelchair tennis players can win the US Open title which starts on Thursday. 02 Sep 2014
Stephane Houdet

France's Stephane Houdet elebrates his defeat over Japan's Shingo Kuniedia in the men's wheelchair tennis singles final at the 2013 US Open in New York.

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By Andrew Cross | for the IPC

“Every single match will be difficult. We used to know who could reach the quarter-finals, the semi-finals and the final. But this is not the case anymore.”

The 2014 US Open which starts on Thursday 4 September could be one of the most open tournaments for several years according to defending wheelchair tennis champion Stephane Houdet.

The Frenchman heads into the tournament hoping to emulate his success of last year, when he beat Japan’s world No.1 Shingo Kunieda 6-2, 6-4 to secure his first US Open title, and third Grand Slam of his career.

However, Kunieda has had a phenomenal 12 months, winning nine major singles titles, including the NEC Wheelchair Masters, the Australian Open, the ABN Amro World Wheelchair Tournament, Roland Garros, plus the double’s title at Wimbledon with Houdet.

Kunieda is very much the man to beat, especially after beating Houdet 7-5, 6-3 to land last week’s US Open USTA title.

“I feel like I have what it takes to retain my title, but I also know that more and more players can win the title,” said 43-year-old Houdet.

“Every single match will be difficult. We used to know who could reach the quarter-finals, the semi-finals and the final. But this is not the case anymore.”

Other title contenders include Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez, a consistent performer in major tournaments and a semi-final regular. This year the 20-year-old has won the Belgian Open and narrowly lost to Kunieda in three sets at the British Open.

Great Britain’s world No.3 Gordon Reid is another player who has the potential to go far at Flushing Meadow. The 24-year-old took Houdet to three sets in the semi-finals of ABN Amro World Wheelchair Tennis Tournament and lost in the final of the British Open to Kunieda.

Gustavo Fernandez had three match points in the semi-final against Shingo in Roland Garros,” said Houdet.

“Nicolas Peifer defeated Shingo during the Masters. Gordon Reid has beaten me and Shingo too. Joachim Gerard could be very strong with his serve.

“All of them can get to the final. Every player in the top 10 is able to beat each other, so it’s really open.”

After a summer break, the Frenchman will hit the ground running in New York.

“I am now under the sunshine of St Louis, Missouri, USA and I hope to play as many matches as possible to prepare for the US Open in NYC,” said Houdet.

“My last tournament was the British Open at the end of July. Then, for the first time this year, I had a few days off, which I spent with my kids.

“After that, I came back on court for training and focussed on testing my new prototype chair, which I hope to have by the end of December.”

The US Open is the last Grand Slam of 2014 and, like last year’s Slam, Houdet is well prepared: “It is the same routine as always. (I’ll) go to the same places with the same friends and team.

“I really love (the) major events. It gives me a lot of envy!”

That envy may be down to Houdet’s long career battle against Kunieda. The two have swapped places at the top of the world rankings many times, as well as sharing wonderful winning moments in the doubles competitions as one of the best parings on the tour.