Gold-medal match a “dream come true” for Whiley and Shuker

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Jordanne Whiley and Lucy Shuker will go for wheelchair tennis gold for the first time in their Paralympic careers after reaching Saturday’s women’s doubles final.

The ParalympicsGB pair are guaranteed at least a silver medal thanks to a straight-sets semi-final win over China’s Wang Ziying and Zhu Zhenzhen, making the most of their second-seed status to win 6-4 6-2.

But neither Whiley nor Shuker are here to settle for the middle spot on the podium.

No nation other than the Netherlands have won gold in either the women’s singles or women’s doubles at a Paralympic Games.

But when they face Dutch duo Diede de Groot and Aniek van Koot on Saturday, the British duo – bronze medallists at both London 2012 and Rio 2016 – will have history on their mind.

“I think it’s a dream come true,” said Shuker of the gold-medal match. “Having won two bronzes in the previous Games is an achievement in itself.

“I think we’ve always been dreaming about having a gold or silver and we just put ourselves in the best place possible – we’re in the match.

“I’m just buzzing that we’ve done it together as a team. We’ve worked so hard together during that match and training.”

Whiley in particular will have had plenty of experience against her doubles opponents by the time they meet at the Ariake Tennis Park.

De Groot was victorious when the two played their singles semi-final while Friday’s contest with van Koot will decide who wins the bronze medal.

“It’s going to be a tough match – we know that. We’re ready for the challenge,” said Whiley.

“We’re in a great place and we’re playing really great tennis. We’re in the best place possible. We have the opportunity to win gold and we’re just going to do our best and leave it all out on the court.

“In Tokyo, we’re older and wiser and we’ve played almost 12 years together so I feel like now is our time.”

ParalympicsGB are guaranteed another two wheelchair tennis medals with Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid teaming up in the doubles before playing each for bronze in the men’s singles.

Reid was defending Paralympic singles champion from Rio 2016 but couldn’t get the better of top seed and tournament favourite Shingo Kunieda, losing out 6-3 6-2 in the last four.

“I think Shingo played amazing,” said Reid. “He played a great match, he gave me nothing cheap, he made me work for every point and unfortunately I couldn’t find the same level of performance as I found yesterday and the rest of the tournament.

“Obviously that’s disappointing but sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say you lost to a better player.

“I’ve been the underdog the last two matches and it was great to get through yesterday and now I’ve got another shot at getting on the podium in a couple of days’ time.”

Hewett was on the wrong end of a 6-4 7-6(5) scoreline against the Netherlands’ Tom Egberink, though the chance of back-to-back Paralympic singles medals remains a possibility.

Before they face off for bronze, Reid and Hewett will team up with an even greater prize in mind as they go for gold in the men’s doubles.

The pair won silver at Rio 2016 and will have a Paralympic rematch when they face defending champions Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer from France.

“We’ll be absolutely buzzing to get out there tomorrow and try and get the opportunity of getting a gold,” said Hewett. “Then we’ll be playing against each other for the bronze so that’ll be tough.

“We know each other very well. Right now, we’re going to try and channel our thoughts to tomorrow’s match because it’s still a big opportunity and we came here to get gold.”

Courtesy of ParalympicsGB