Houdet, Kunieda to headline Wheelchair Tennis Masters

France’s Stephane Houdet and Shingo Kunieda will fight for the men’s title, while Esther Vergeer’s withdrawal leaves the women’s competition wide open. 07 Nov 2012
A picture of a man in a wheelchair playing tennis

Stephane Houdet will try to defend his title during the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters.

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There will be a host of London 2012 Paralympic Games medallists among the 20 players taking part in the event from 7-11 November across the men’s, women’s and quads singles competitions.

The NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters kick off on Wednesday (7 November) in Mechelen, Belgium, with plenty of drama expected as world No. 1 Stephane Houdet looks to retain his singles title in the event and Paralympic champion Esther Vergeer’s withdrawal has left a void in the women’s competition.

There will be a host of London 2012 Paralympic Games medallists among the 20 players taking part in the event from 7-11 November across the men’s, women’s and quads singles competitions.


After becoming the first player to win back-to-back Paralympic men’s singles gold medals at London 2012, Japan’s Shingo Kunieda will hope to finally secure the only major singles title in wheelchair tennis to have eluded him thus far, but he will have to defeat defending champion Houdet – who he beat at London 2012 – to win the title.

Kunieda had surgery in February on the elbow that kept him out of last year’s NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters and subsequently resulted in him losing his world No. 1 ranking for the first time in four years.

Houdet has had the closest matches with Kunieda since the Japanese player’s return to the NEC Tour in May, defeating Kunieda in a final-set tiebreaker at Roland Garros, where Houdet won his first Grand Slam title, but then losing to Kunieda at the BNP Paribas French Open Super Series a few weeks later.

Kunieda is unbeaten in 21 matches since losing to Houdet in the Roland Garros final and appears to have returned to his best form.

No. 2 Maikel Scheffers and No. 4 Ronald Vink of the Netherlands will be among the leading contenders to emerge from the group phase of the competition and reach the semi-finals, along with Argentina’s No. 6 Gustavo Fernandez, who beat Scheffers, Vink and Houdet en route to winning his first Super Series title at the Japan Open in May.

Scheffers faces Fernandez in his opening match, while Kunieda will open his bid for his first NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters title with a rematch of July’s British Open final against Great Britain’s Reid.


After finishing runner-up in the women’s singles at the 2011 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters and subsequently finishing last season as world No. 2 for the first time, Aniek van Koot has since then been the top ranked Dutchwoman after Vergeer.

The withdrawal of 14-time champion Vergeer from this year’s NEC Masters guarantees a new name will be added to the roll of honour and van Koot’s silver medal-winning performance at the London 2012 Paralympics arguably makes her the favourite.

Her Dutch teammates Jiske Griffioen and Marjolein Buis, along with Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany – the highest ranked non-Dutch player – are all formidable challengers for the title, though.

Griffioen recently joined Vergeer and van Koot in London to perform a Paralympic sweep in the women’s singles competition, while Ellerbrock finished fourth, missing out on a podium place.

Vergeer’s withdrawal has also given South Africa’s Kgothatso Montjane the chance to become the first African player to contest the NEC Masters and Montjane’s record this season includes wins over several of her higher ranked peers, including van Koot.


World No. 1 and former four-time NEC Masters champion David Wagner of USA will face fellow American and world No. 5 Nick Taylor in his opening match this year in the quads competition.

Israel’s Noam Gershony, London 2012 Paralympic champion, withdrew from the event, making Wagner the one to beat.

Great Britain’s Andy Lapthorne and Sweden’s Anders Hard will round out the small quads field of four competitors, with Lapthorne looking to one-better his runner-up performance at last year’s event.

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