The men’s singles year-end world No. 1 ranking will be on the line this week at the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters, which has begun Wednesday (30 November) at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, Great Britain.
The competition is the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) year-end wheelchair singles Championship for 22 of the world’s leading players. France’s Stephane Houdet is 94 points ahead of Rio 2016 Paralympic gold medallist and home favourite Gordon Reid at the top of the world rankings.
Houdet finished third last year and the French player is one of four previous champions in this year’s eight-strong men’s event. Alongside him is Belgium’s defending champion, world No. 3 and Australian Open runner-up Joachim Gerard; Sweden’s Wimbledon runner-up Stefan Olsson and the Netherlands’ Maikel Scheffers.
Reid began the season almost 1,700 points adrift of Houdet. But Reid became No. 1 thanks to Grand Slam victories at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, together with being runner-up to Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez and winning the men’s singles gold medal at Rio 2016.
Houdet’s consistency at this year’s Super Series events culminated in victory at the US Open USTA Wheelchair Championships in October, earning a win that saw France’s 2011 NEC Masters champion return to the top spot.
After the completion of three days of round-robin competition in two pools of four players, the top two players in each pool will go forward to the men’s semifinals.
Griffioen heads women’s singles entry
Rio 2016 gold medallist and world No. 1 Jiske Griffioen heads the women’s singles field once again. The defending champion sets out to try and win her third NEC Masters title.
Griffioen is also the reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion. Rio 2016 silver medallist and 2014 NEC Masters champion Aniek van Koot is another one of a four-strong Dutch entry in the field of eight players.
Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock, who upset the rankings in 2015 to reach her first NEC Masters final, returns, as does Japan’s 2013 champion Yui Kamiji, who prevented a Dutch clean sweep of the women’s singles medals in Rio after defeating Diede de Groot in the bronze medal match. Kamiji remains the only non-Dutch player to lift the NEC Masters women’s title in the last 22 years.
De Groot makes her NEC Masters debut this year and the 19-year-old – one of the most improved players on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis tour in the last 18 months – is also joined by her compatriot and reigning Roland Garros champion Marjolein Buis. Should the four Dutch players be drawn evenly in the two round-robin pools, an all-Dutch semifinal line-up is a possibility for the first time since 2011.
Great Britain’s Jordanne Whiley and Lucy Shuker, both of whom are among this year’s Super Series champions, will hope to draw on home support, with the top two players in each of the round-robin pools of four players again going through to Saturday’s (3 December) semifinals.
Eight-time champion Wagner heads quad singles
The NEC Masters quad singles field has been increased from four to six players for the first time this year. The USA’s world No. 2 David Wagner heads the entry following the withdrawal of Rio 2016 gold medallist and world No. 1 Dylan Alcott due to injury.
Rio 2016 bronze medallist Wagner will bid to make it nine NEC Masters titles since 2004. Great Britain’s No. 4 Andy Lapthorne, a former NEC Masters finalist, beat Wagner in the semifinals in Rio 2016 before claiming silver. Lapthorne is the only player to have beaten both Wagner and Alcott this season.
Wagner is one of two former world No. 1 players in this year’s quad singles field along with Israel’s Shraga Weiniberg. Weinberg makes his NEC Masters debut 12 months on from his compatriot Itay Erenlib making his NEC Masters debut in London. No. 5 Erenlib is again among the contenders this year, while South Korea’s Kyu-Seung Kim and Great Britain’s Antony Cotterill complete the field.
The top two players in each of the two quad singles round-robin pools of three players will go forward to the semifinals.
The competition runs until Sunday (4 December).
More information on the NEC Masters can be found on the ITF’s website.