Kunieda, van Koot, Wagner win in Australia

Japan’s Shingo Kunieda, the Netherlands’ Aniek van Koot and USA’s David Wagner wrapped up singles titles at the year’s first Grand Slam. 27 Jan 2013
Shingo Kunieda

World No. 1 Shingo Kunieda defeated France's Stephane Houdet in straight sets to win his sixth Australian Open title since 2007.

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“Last year I was injured so I couldn’t play here, but I have the title again, so I’m very happy.”

Japan’s Shingo Kunieda, the Netherlands’ Aniek van Koot and the USA’s David Wagner won the Australian Open men’s, women’s and quad singles titles, respectively, on Saturday (26 January) at the first Grand Slam of the year on the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour.

It was the sixth Australian Open crown for Kunieda, while van Koot’s victory propelled her to No. 1 in the world in the women’s singles rankings.

Men’s singles

There was familiar conclusion to the men’s singles final in Melbourne, as Kunieda clinched his sixth Australian Open title since 2007, beating Frenchman Stephane Houdet in straight sets 6-2, 6-0.

At the end of a week in which he regained the world No. 1 men’s singles ranking from Houdet, Kunieda denied Houdet again as he avenged his loss to Houdet in the final at Roland Garros last June.

That was Kunieda’s last loss in competition and he made his intentions clear from the start at Melbourne Park, as he raced in to a 3-0 lead before holding serve to love to make it 4-0.

Houdet battled back to win the next two games and had a game point to make it 4-3, but could not take his opportunity and Kunieda moved to within one game of the set.

Houdet had game points for 5-3, too, as the eighth game of the set went to deuce, but Kunieda kept the pressure on to eventually take the set 6-2.

A comfort break between sets was followed by Houdet needing time out for repairs to his tennis wheelchair, but the break in proceedings did little to slow Kunieda down and he built a 5-0 lead in the final set and soon completed the swift two-set victory victory on his second match point.

“Last year I was injured so I couldn’t play here, but I have the title again, so I’m very happy,” Kunieda told the Australian Open website.

Women’s singles

With the absence of Paralympic champion Esther Vergeer in Melbourne, van Koot took advantage of the field to defeat Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock in a tight final, 6-1, 1-6, 7-5.

The first four games of the women’s singles final went to deuce, with van Koot winning the lion’s share of he points to take a 3-1 lead, and she held serve comfortably to extend her advantage to 4-1. After edging another deuce game van Koot subsequently served out the set.

There was major shift in momentum in the second set as Ellerbrock, playing in her first Grand Slam final, won the first two games and broke van Koot’s serve to love to establish a 3-1 lead.

The world No. 4 remained largely in control for the rest of the set, but conceded three successive set points at 5-1, as van Koot fought back to deuce, only for Ellerbrock to convert her next set point to force a decider.

Ellerbrock and van Koot swapped service breaks to start the final set before van Koot asserted herself to establish a 5-2 lead.

However, she then started to show signs of nerves as Ellerbrock saved match points in the eighth and ninth games of the set and finally levelled the match at 5-5 in the third.

Van Koot regrouped to serve out for a 6-5 lead and after seeing seven match points disappear she finally converted her eighth to wrap up the victory.

“I’m still nervous,” van Koot told the Australian Open website afterwards, referring to the seven match points that slipped away.

“Sometimes you have the feeling if you’re not going to win them now, you’re not going to get a chance again. I was very pleased to keep my serve to go to 6-5. In the end I started to enjoy it a bit more and then it went better.”

Quad singles

The quad singles final started the enthralling last day of play at Melbourne Park, with Wagner defeating first-time Grand Slam finalist Andy Lapthorne of Great Britain, 2-6, 6-1 6-4.

There were plenty of deuce games throughout the contest and the fifth game was by far the longest of the first set, with Wagner finally taking it to get himself on the scoreboard at 4-1.

Another deuce game in the sixth also went to Wagner, but Lapthorne made it 5-2 and served out the set.

The second set was almost a mirror image of the first as Wagner took a 5-0 lead and although Lapthorne took the next game and saved a set point at 5-1 Wagner secured the set comfortably.

The American world No. 1 Wagner gained an early break in the deciding set before Lapthorne broke back after some tight exchanges. Another deuce game and Wagner regained a narrow 3-2 lead. Wagner held his next service game for 4-2 and maintained his cushion to make it 5-3 before Lapthorne saved two match points as he reduced the deficit to just one game.

However, Wagner earned himself another opportunity to close out the match and eventually the 2011 champion regained the title.

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