Masters 2018: Favourites collide in pool stage

Season-ending wheelchair tennis tournament begins in USA 28 Nov 2018
male wheelchair tennis player Stefan Olsson raises his fists in celebration at the net

Stefan Olsson will look to close out an incredible year

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World No.1 Shingo Kunieda and Stefan Olsson, the winners of three Grand Slam men’s singles titles this year, will play each other in the round-robin phase of the 2018 Wheelchair Tennis Masters, which get underway on Wednesday (28 November) in Orlando, USA.

Japan’s Kunieda and Swedish star Olsson have been drawn alongside Great Britain’s Gordon Reid, runner-up for the past two years, and Frenchman Nicolas Peifer in Pool A of the men’s singles. Kunieda begins his bid for a fourth NEC Masters title against Peifer. Kunieda and the world No. 8 have history at the NEC Masters, perhaps most significantly in 2013 and 2014.

In 2013, Peifer secured the first of just two career wins to date against Kunieda when they also met in the pool phase of the event the last time the Masters was held in the USA. A year later they met in the final, with Kunieda earning the most recent of his four titles at the year-end singles championship.

Argentina’s World No. 3 Gustavo Fernandez and Takashi Sanada of Japan play the first match of the competition when they meet in the opening men’s singles Pool B contest. Fernandez and Sanada are drawn in Pool B alongside former champions Stephane Houdet of France and Belgium’s Joachim Gerard.

De Groot takes centre stage

The Netherlands’ world No. 1 and reigning Masters champion Diede de Groot has the honour of getting play underway on Centre Court when she meets world No. 8 Lucy Shuker of Great Britain.

De Groot and Shuker will also play former finalist Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany and Italian Masters debutante Giulia Capocci in Pool A later in the week. Wednesday’s contest between Capocci and Ellerbrock will be the first career meeting between the two players.

Pool B of the women’s singles features two former champions in Japan’s Yui Kamiji and Netherlands’ Aniek van Koot, with world No. 3 van Koot the only player so far this season to have beaten both de Groot and world No. 2 Kamiji.

Still the only non-Dutch player to win the Masters women’s title, 2013 champion and Kamiji faces Marjolein Buis in their fourth meeting this year. All three previous matches since January between the two players have come in Grand Slam quarter finals at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, with Kamiji beating the Dutchwoman on every occasion.

Wednesday’s other Pool B match between van Koot and South Africa’s Kgothatso Montjane is also a replay of two 2018 Grand Slam quarter finals at the Australian Open and Roland Garros.

All-Aussie match-up

Three former finalists will meet in Pool A of the quad singles this week in Orlando, including last year’s finalists David Wagner of USA and Great Britain’s Andy Lapthorne.

Before meeting Lapthorne this year, world No. 1 Wagner first faces South Africa’s Lucas Sithole on Wednesday in the latest match-up between the 2015 finalists. Wagner has not lost to Sithole since beginning a 17-match winning stream at the 2015 Masters.

In Pool B the opening contest will be an all-Australian match-up between world No. 2 Dylan Alcott and Heath Davidson as Alcott begins his quest for a first Masters title.

Masters debutant Kojj Sugeno will begin his challenge on Thursday against the winner of the Alcott-Davidson match-up.

You can watch all the action live on the International Paralympic Committee website.