World number one Reid chasing NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters title
PUBLISHED: 08:11 04 December 2016 | UPDATED: 08:11 04 December 2016
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Paralympic champion moves to top of rankings ahead of final
Great Britain’s Gordon Reid will go into the final of the NEC Wheelchair Masters today as the new men’s world number one.
Paralympic champion Reid beat the previous holder of that spot, France’s Stephane Houdet, in their semi-final meeting on Saturday to ensure he would replace his rival at the top of the rankings.
And Reid will now take on defending champion Joachim Gerard of Belgium in the final at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, looking to add another title to his impressive CV.
Neither the Paris-based 46-year-old Houdet, nor the agile 25-year-old Reid needed any reminder that a place in the finals and the year-end world number one ranking was at stake when they took to the court.
It was the first time the world’s top-two ranked players in men’s singles wheelchair tennis had met since the Paralympics, when Reid defeated Houdet in the semi-finals and subsequently enjoyed three weeks as the world’s best player.
Reid, third in 2014, is going for his first Masters title, while Houdet has won four of this year’s Super Series titles and was looking to add to his Masters win in 2011.
The British left-hander seized the early advantage, serving and returning well to take the first set 6-2 within 40 minutes.
And after going 4-0 up in the second set, Reid never looked back, clinching it 6-1 and punching the air to roars from the crowd as he reached his first Masters final and celebrated the year-end world number one billing.
He said: “I’m feeling good on court and I played some of my best tennis to win. I wanted to stay aggressive and serve and return well.
“I’m seeing the ball early and I’m feeling relaxed. I’ve now achieved what I came here to do this week and everything from here is a bonus for me.
“Being year-end world number one is a brilliant feeling. It has already been the best year of my career to date in singles and I’m really happy. I enjoy the crowds and sometimes the home support gets you over the line.”
Ever-magnanimous Houdet warmly congratulated his conqueror, adding: “He was too strong. He was amazing. He hit so many good serves and returns. Everything in his game was perfect.
“I can only say congratulations. It was well deserved and a lesson! He put pressure on my serve and I tried to find angles. Even when Gordon is down he comes back. He’s like perfection – just like the world number one should be!”
In the quad division, world number two and eight-time Masters champion David Wagner (USA) was facing world number six Kyu-Seung Kim (Korea) and quickly showed his intent to take the first set 6-2, before winning the second 6-1 to seal a final spot.
He said: “No match is ever easy but I played well. I’d only played Kyu once before and this match came out in my favour.”
GB’s world number four and West Ham fan Andy Lapthorne met Itay Erenlib (Israel) in the other semi-final, having remained unbeaten in his round-robin pool and twice reached the Masters final.
The 26-year-old also went into the match with the confidence of a Parlympic silver medal in Rio and having reached six finals this year, while Erenlib, 31, had recently won the ITF 1 Bath Indoor and the ITF 2 Austrian Open.
Former soldier Erenlib showed mental toughness to defy home crowd support and power his way to a 6-2 first set advantage and he held off Lapthorne’s charge to take the second 6-4 to reach his first Masters final.
Erenlib said: “I feel happy during my match and to play in front of the crowds. I played good and thank my coach for the plan we made.
“It was my first win against Andy and I prepared well with my coach for this game. I’ve never beaten Wagner before but I feel better on this surface and I’ll be ready.”
A disappointed Lapthorne added: “Today was probably one of the worst matches I’ve played in my life. I didn’t deserve to go through. He’s a good player but usually I deal with him. Nothing worked.”
Gerard faced Sweden’s Stefan Olsson, who enjoyed a 9-5 advantage in previous meetings and stormed 5-2 up in the first set.
But the 28-year-old Belgian, having won four titles this year, dug deep to win five unanswered games to take the set 7-5.
And the Paralympic bronze medalist went on to clinch victory after more than an hour of tense play, to set up a meeting with Reid.
He said: “I gave him the ball too easily and I was making too many mistakes, even with my serve. Maybe I was a little nervous so I just told myself (at 5-2 down) to be myself and to play my own game. I showed myself that I can change my game and come back to win.”
Asked about his clash against Reid, he added: “I watched Gordon against Stephane and he’s playing well. I will give the match everything and the best player will win.”
Defending champion and world number one Jiske Griffioen, 31, faced compatriot Diede de Groot, 19, who had recently won the Bath Indoor title, in the women’s semi-finals, with a 3-1 edge in previous meetings, including in the last four in Rio.
Griffioen took a 3-1 lead in less than 15 minutes and pushed on to take the first set 6-1.
But De Groot regrouped and shot back to take the first four games in the second set to love and went on to 6-4 to set up a deciding set.
De Groot kept her composure and pressed Griffioen to go 5-3 up in the third, but Griffioen fought back to make it a nail-biting tie-break which she finally took 8-7.
Griffioen said: “It’s never over until it’s over! I was down 5-2 in the third, but I was still really motivated as the games were so close.
“I decided to just go for my shots and I didn’t miss much after that. I struggled with my serve in the tie-break but I got back and my ground strokes were strong.”
Japan’s Yui Kamiji waits for Griffioen in the final and she added: “We played earlier this week (Kamiji won) and I’ll try to do things a little bit different. I gave her too much time a few days ago.”
World number three Kamiji is looking to add the 2016 Masters title to her 2013 crown and continue to be the only non Dutch-player to have won the women’s singles in 22 years.
World number four Marjolein Buis was aiming to make the final an all-Dutch affair, but Kamiji used her backhand top-spin and slice with effect to carve out a 4-0 lead and take the first set 6-2.
Buis fought right back to win the second set 6-3, but Kamiji kept her cool in the third and increased the pressure on her opponent to go 4-0 up, before winning the set 6-1.
She said: “I felt very good. I am confident and think it helps to have beaten her (Griffioen) earlier this week, but she also knows that!”
Kamiji and Griffioen’s final meeting will be a repeat of 2013, when the Japanese player took the title.
Order of play: Houdet v Olsson (9am); Reid v Gerard (11am); Griffioen v Kamiji; Wagner v Erenlib; Lapthorne v Kim; Buis v De Groot.