Wagner in seventh heaven at NEC Masters

Wagner wins the quads title, whilst the finalists in the men's and women's singles were decided on Saturday. 30 Nov 2014
Man in wheelchair with tennis racket in triumphing pose

USA's world No. 1 David Wagner wins the 2014 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters quad title

ⒸJames Jordan

World No. 1 David Wagner became the second most successful player outright in NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters history when he claimed his seventh quad singles title on Saturday (29 November), the penultimate day of action at this year’s season-ending championship at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in London.

Meanwhile, Sunday’s women’s singles final will have a familiar theme to it after world No. 3 Aniek van Koot set up an all-Dutch decider against 2012 champion Jiske Griffioen after prevailing in an extraordinary semi-final. The men’s final will feature world No. 7 Nicolas Peifer for the very first time as the Frenchman takes on Japan’s two-time defending champion Shingo Kunieda.

Wagner success

Already the most successful quad singles player in the event’s 21 year history, Wagner surpassed the six titles won by former men’s singles champion Robin Ammerlaan as he reversed the result of his round-robin match against Australia’s Dylan Alcott earlier in the week.

Both Wagner and Alcott won silver medals at London 2012, Wagner in the quad singles and Alcott as a member of Australia’s men’s wheelchair basketball team. However, the American, also a double gold medallist two years ago, completed his return to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park by claiming major honours as he beat world No. 4 Alcott 6-4 7-5, becoming the first player to win the quad title at the NEC Masters in three successive years.

“It’s a real honour to be able to represent the United States, USTA, UOC and I just try to play the best tennis I can every time I come on court. It’s an amazing feeling, this is my seventh Masters title and that’s unheard of for us, I’m so excited and going to have a great night tonight,” said Wagner.

“It means a lot, it’s a dream come true to even have the opportunity to try and win seven of these things let alone actually do it, and having John (Devorss, his coach) here and knowing that my whole family are watching the live stream back home means a lot.”

South Africa’s Lucas Sithole, the runner-up to Wagner in 2013, finished this year’s event in third place after Brit Andy Lapthorne had to withdraw from their scheduled play-off due to injury.

Dutch delight

With the record for NEC Masters titles standing at 14 for Esther Vergeer in the women’s singles, another Dutch winner is guaranteed in 2014 after 2011 and 2012 runner-up van Koot and Brit Jordanne Whiley were involved in a titanic contest.

Whiley battled back from 5-2 down to take the first set on a tie-break and then had her only three match points at 5-2 up on van Koot’s serve in the second set. But the Dutchwoman launched a comeback that eventually saw her reach her third NEC Masters final 6-7(4) 7-5 6-2.

“It was a total rollercoaster ride, I went from confident to sad, to wanting to give up, being furious, to being comfortable again, to being happy to being stressed – I need a good drink after that,” exclaimed van Koot after a highly emotional end to the match for both players.

“She put up a really good fight, she’s a really good player. I’m a bit scared for what next year brings for us having to face her in the singles. She is making a lot of progress in her game and it was very tough but, I’m delighted to be through.

“I didn’t expect to be in the final. After the first set I thought Jordanne really deserved it, but it’s happened and I’m delighted. My mum has been very ill for the last month and it’s been a very stressful time and it will be really lovely to call her and make her smile.”

The other women’s semi-final was much more clear cut as Griffioen avenged her loss to Japan’s Yui Kamiji in the 2013 final, beating the defending champion 6-4 6-1.

“I’m really happy, it’s always tough to play world No.1. Last year in the Masters she beat me in a really close three set match, so I’m really happy to win this one,” said Griffioen.

“It’s always good when spectators come and enjoy the tennis and so far it’s been pretty good over the week, as well, but in the weekend it’s a bit more busy, which makes sense, and it’s really nice to have spectators here and show what wheelchair tennis is about. I had a good feeling. I started a little shaky today but luckily I didn’t get too nervous about it and just fought my way back into the match and then everything fell into place.”

First Peifer final

Unbeaten at the top of his pool, 24-year-old Peifer gained his fourth win in four matches in London as he outplayed Dutch 2009 NEC Masters champion Maikel Scheffers to seal a 6-4 6-1 victory.

“It’s a good feeling to be in the final, I’ve got nothing to lose going into the final. I’m going to do what I have to do in my match tomorrow,” said Peifer.

“I didn’t feel confident all the way through today. It was very tough, especially at the end. It was very stressful, because I knew I had the chance to win the match and there was a lot of pressure, but I just kept fighting all the way through.”

Peifer will now play Kunieda for the fourth time since beating the Japanese top seed in the round-robin phase of the 2013 NEC Masters in California.

Kunieda went on to clinch his second Masters title last year and he stayed on track to make it three in a row after producing a clinical performance to beat Britain’s world No. 3 Gordon Reid 6-1 6-2.

“The last few games were especially tough – he put a lot of pressure on me, but I was able to control both games,” said Kunieda, whose one and only loss this season came against Reid in his first tournament of 2014 in Sydney in January.

“I’m very happy to be through to the final, tomorrow. I want to play my best tennis and I feel in good form. Obviously most of the crowd were cheering for Gordon (today) but I saw quite a few Japanese fans in the audience, which is nice, and it’s good to have that support behind me.”

Competition for places

Germany's World No. 4 Sabine Elerbrock finished fifth in the women’s singles after beating Dutch world No. 5 Marjolein Buis 75- 6-0, while seventh place went world No. 7 Sharon Walraven, who was awarded a walkover ahead of her scheduled play-off against South African Kgothatso Montjane.

Belgium’s Joachim Gerard, the 2013 NEC Masters runner-up, was fifth in the men’s singles this year after beating Japanese world No. 8 Takashi Sanada 6-1 6-1. With world No. 2 Stephane Houdet and world No. 4 Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina in the seventh place play-off, it was the Frenchman who finished his week on a winning note after prevailing 6-4 6-7(5) 6-2.