Gordon Reid, Alfie Hewett and Lucy Shuker all play on Arthur Ashe Stadium when the 10th US Open Wheelchair Tennis Competition gets underway later today in New York, with former champion Andy Lapthorne completing the full complement of Brits in action on the opening day when he contests the first of his three quad singles round-robin matches.
Lapthorne goes into this year’s event buoyed by having won the quad singles and doubles titles at last week’s US Open USTA Wheelchair Championships in St. Louis, the last of this season’s six Super Series events. And there was further success in St. Louis for players on the Tennis Foundation’s Wheelchair Tennis World Class Programme when Shuker partnered Japan’s Yui Kamiji to the women’s doubles title.
World No. 2 Lapthorne beat Australian Heath Davidson in last Sunday’s singles final in St. Louis, having partnered American David Wagner to win the quad doubles title a day earlier. Lapthorne and Wagner pair up again in New York when the three-time Australian Open champions bid for another Grand Slam title on Saturday against Australia’s Dylan Alcott and the USA’s Bryan Barten.
“It was a brilliant week in St. Louis for me, beating some top players and winning another singles title after all this time. It felt amazing and leaves me in good heart for the Grand Slam challenge now,” said Lapthorne, who first faces 2015 US Open champion Alcott in his opening match in New York today.
The contest comes a little over a year on from Lapthorne claiming the Rio Paralympic quad singles silver medal behind the Australian last September. “It was also great to win the doubles title with David in St. Louis and we did it without dropping a game in any of our matches, so we’re looking forward to playing some more good tennis in New York.”
After playing Alcott, Lapthorne goes on to face Wagner and his fellow American Bryan Barten in his remaining singles round-robin matches. The top two players after the completion of the round-robin phase of the competition will go forward to the quad singles final.
While Lapthorne looks to continue winning ways partnering Wagner in the quad doubles this week, British No.1 Shuker also teams up with Kamiji in New York. She has been drawn to meet the Japanese world No.1 in Friday’s women’s singles quarter-finals, too.
“The last two weeks in North America have given me some good preparation playing outdoors ahead of the US Open. Winning two doubles titles in successive weeks has given me plenty of confidence going into New York,” said Shuker, who teams up with Kamiji to play American Dana Mathewson and Aniek van Koot of the Netherlands for a place in what could be her first US Open final.
Shuker is a former doubles finalist at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. “Yui and I showed last week that we can hang in there and fight even when we are down in a match and still come back and win, which is great and she really is a pleasure to play alongside. I’m excited to go into the 25th Grand Slam of my career alongside our three other Brits.”
Second seeds Shuker and Kamiji came from 5-0 down in the third and final set to beat Rio Paralympic silver medallists and top seeds Marjolein Bius and Diede de Groot in the final in St. Louis and the Dutch pairing are top seeds again in New York.
Hewett and Reid could potentially meet in the men’s singles semi-finals after being drawn in the same half of the draw. But the Rio Paralympic silver medallists and two-time Wimbledon champions first team up for today’s men’s doubles semi-final against Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez and Shingo Kunieda of Japan, which will see Roland Garros champion and world No. 3 Hewett make his US Open debut. Hewett and Reid will be hoping to reverse the result of their doubles semi-final in St. Louis at the weekend, which Fernandez and Kunieda won narrowly.
“I’m really looking forward to making my US Open Grand Slam debut. It’s an event I’ve always wanted to play at and to now be here is a great feeling – and to be playing my first match in Arthur Ashe Stadium, too, I’m buzzing,” said Hewett. “I’m so far loving the vibe and atmosphere, and hoping that energy will transfer into my tennis. There were lots of positives to take from St. Louis last week. Even though I didn’t win any titles there, I feel like I’m striking the ball well. I will focus on the first matches in each event and try my best to focus on what I need to do to win both.”
Hewett begins his men’s singles campaign against Kunieda on Friday, having beaten the Japanese player in the Roland Garros semi-finals in their last career meeting in june. Meanwhile, world No.2 and former Australian Open and Wimbledon men’s singles champion Reid will play Belgium’s Joachim Gerard in his men’s singles quarter-final. Reid holds a 3-1 lead over Gerard in Grand Slam head-to-heads to date, his wins including their quarter-final in New York in 2013 and the 2016 Australia Open final.
Report courtesy of the Tennis Foundation