The world’s best wheelchair tennis players have arrived in Bath and among them are Britain’s Lucy Shuker and James Shaw who will be looking to defend the titles they won at the ITF 1 tournament last year.
I’m looking forward to partnering up with Diede again, she’s a great doubles and singles player and having her on my side of the court is much more fun. Lucy Shuker
As well as Shuker and Shaw, Belgium’s Joachim Gerard and the Netherlands Diede De Groot, will each have two titles to defend having been crowned 2016 champions in singles and doubles in the men’s and women’s open divisions respectively.
Shuker, who is coming off an incredible run of form across the pond where she claimed five titles over six weeks, will be looking to defend her doubles title with De Groot.
She said: “I’m looking forward to partnering up with Diede again, she’s a great doubles and singles player and having her on my side of the court is much more fun.
“There’s some good teams here so there’ll be some good tennis to watch.”
And Shaw will play alongside Sweden’s Anders Hard as he aims to defend his quads division doubles title which he won last year with Itay Erenlib.
He said: “Last year was great. It was the first time I played with Itay and it was amazing to come away with the win.
“This year there’s a lot more players and the top players are all here so it’s going to be a lot tougher but I’ve played with Anders quite a few times and we’ve had some big wins so I’m hopeful we can do well.”
Shuker: ’Hopefully we’ll come out with the title’
Shuker is one of the most experienced players in the women’s game and regularly puts in strong and consistent performances on the doubles court.
Her varied play that we are so used to seeing when she’s playing singles becomes her major strength when combined with a partner especially when she is given the opportunity to come up to the net.
And on her partnership with de Groot she said: “If I’m honest I think our games suit each other, she’s a great mover and strikes a really big ball so that kind of sets me up well.
“There are a lot of strong doubles pairs here though but hopefully we’ll come out with the title.”
Something which should also be giving Shuker lots of confidence as she comes into this tournament is her amazing results out in Canada and America in August and September.
She said: “I love the events out there, it went really well for me and I was really happy about getting those titles.
“And it’s going to be tough but at the end of the day I’ve put the work in and trained hard since America.
“Hopefully everyone will play some good tennis and I’ll play some good tennis and we’ll see how it goes.”
De Groot is certainly looking forward to teaming up with the British number one again.
She said: “It’s always nice to play doubles with Lucy. I think we’ll have some tough matches here because there are some good players but I am looking forward to it.
World number two De Groot, who has really showed some stunning form on court this year, also has a singles title to defend here and is looking forward to competing again after six weeks on the training court.
She said: “I’ve been training well and yes I’ve had a good year but it’s not finished yet and there’s lots of important tournaments coming up but I’m hoping to make my year even better here in Bath.”
Shaw: ’I’ve been putting in consistent performances’
The quads division entries this year are impressive with most of the top players who are set to feature in the year end singles masters in a few weeks competing,including David Wagner, Dylan Alcott and Britain’s Antony Cotterill.
So the singles draw was always going to be tough on Shaw, especially as he is drawn against World number five and Paralympic gold medallist Davidson in the opening round.
But he has had close matches with Davidson before and is coming into this tournament after an impressive display out in Prague only last week, where in his first encounter against former World number one Nick Taylor he came out on top.
About his incredible run in Prague last week Shaw said: “To beat Nick four and two in straight sets was amazing, he’s a big name in the sport and then to beat Marcus Luaden was a really good result.
“Unfortunately his twin brother (Maximillian) was able to beat me in the semi-finals but again my performance was good and I can’t really complain.
He continued: “Since the start of the year I’ve been putting in consistent performances and been getting to a lot more semi-finals and finals so yeah things are looking up and I’m going to keep on improving.
“I’m just hoping to put in some good performances here and hopefully beat some people I haven’t beaten before.”
Gerard: ‘I will do my best to go as far as possible so I can keep my title’
Equally as exciting as the rest is the men’s open division draw this year, not just because most of the top players will be battling it out in Bath but also because of the depth in this division.
In a year when each of the Grand Slam men’s singles titles has been won by a different player in the top ten, predicting who will come out on top this week is tough.
But hoping his name will feature on the trophies again is defending men’s singles and doubles champion Joachim Gerard.
He said: “I was the first winner in singles and doubles and I know it will be tough this year because I am coming back from an injury and to be honest my American tour was not so good but I will do my best to go as far as possible so I can keep my titles.”
On the same side of the draw as Britain’s Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett (yes sorry regular tennis watchers we may have to prepare ourselves for another Reid v Hewett semi-final if they both come through their draws) it’s going to challenge Gerard as the lower half of the draw looks to be the toughest but he is still positive about his prospects.
When asked if he could do it, he was confident when he said: “I hope so I will do everything I can to.”
In the doubles he will once again partner with Sweden’s Stefan Olsson, with whom he has a strong partnership.
Gerard said: “I know we are a good pair, one of the best in the world. And it will be good practice for next week and the doubles Masters.
“I’m looking forward to this week.”