Brits Andy Lapthorne, Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid all booked their places in the Australian Open singles semi-finals on Sunday’s opening day of wheelchair tennis action at Melbourne Park.
On an excellent day for players on the LTA’s Wheelchair Tennis World Class Programme, Lapthorne made history when he won the first ever completed quad singles knockout quarter-final at an Australian Open, defeating the USA’s David Wagner 6-1, 6-4.
With the Australian Open expanding its quad division field to eight players this year and therefore moving from a round-robin format to a knockout competition for the quad singles, world No.2 Lapthorne opened up a 6-1 3-0 lead over former champion David Wagner of the USA , before needing to regroup midway through the second to close out victory.
Three-time Australian Open finalist Lapthorne, who plays reigning US Open champion Sam Schroder of the Netherlands in Monday’s semi-finals, said:
“I came out and tried to play aggressive and it worked. I got it to 6-1, 3-0 and probably relaxed a bit. I felt a lull there and let him get back into it, but I showed massive character to hold for 5-3 and just found a way (to win). This is what all the campaigning has been for, to get eight players here and I’m so proud of that.
“I’ve done a few things differently and I’m trying to stay relaxed, as I’m very aware that it’s a privileged position that we’re in, being able to play tennis while so many here and in the UK are in lockdown,” added Lapthorne, who partners Wagner in Monday’s quad doubles semi-finals, where they face Japan’s Koji Sugeno and American Nick Taylor.
Reigning French Open champion Hewett found a way to ‘win ugly’ against Frenchman Nicolas Peifer. Hewett recovered from 2-0 down to take the opening set and served out his match to love with an ace for a 7-5, 6-4 victory that sets up a men’s semi against world No.1 Shingo Kunieda. Former US Open men’s singles champion and world No.3 Hewett, said:
“I’ve come here to take the title. It’s one I haven’t got and tomorrow is a big, big challenge on the way to trying to make that happen and I’m really excited for it. But to put things into perspective, we’re in a tough place in the world right now, so to actually be out here playing tennis in the sun is quite a privilege.”
Reid needed six match points before joining Hewett in the singles semi-finals, overcoming the effects of illness to secure a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Argentina’s world No.2 Fernandez.
The world No.5 fell 3-1 behind in the final set before stringing four games in a row to lead 5-3. However, it wasn’t until Fernandez had reduced Reid’s lead to 5-4 that the Rio 2016 men’s singles gold medallist earned the first of six match points, finally drawing Fernandez into a backhand error to prevail after two hours and 30 minutes.
Having also beaten Fernandez in the quarter-finals of the 2020 Australian Open, Reid will now attempt to defeat Belgian Joachim Gerard, the same player he beat in last year’s semi-finals. Drawn in the opposite half of the men’s singles draw to Hewettt , he said:
“I’ve had a stomach bug in the last few days and I didn’t have a lot left in the tank in the third set, so I’m just happy that I stuck in there and made it difficult for him.
“I don’t think I did anything too wrong. He raised his level, made more balls and caused me a lot of pressure. I had to try and reset for the third set, hang in there, and I started the set well. I was really happy with the way I fought, it meant a lot to me to get that win today. It was a gutsy final set – it wasn’t always pretty, but sometimes you’ve got to do that when you’re not feeling 100 per cent.
Lucy Shuker’s 11th Australian Open began with a 6-2, 6-2 loss to French Open finalist Momoko Ohtani. Shuker now turns her attention to Monday’s women’s doubles semi-finals, when she will attempt to reach a third Australian Open doubles final and her first partnering South Africa’s Kgothatso Monttjane. Shuker said:
“I love playing here and it’s just a shame I didn’t bring my best game today. I went 2-0 and 40-0 up and then Ohtani started to settle into it. I think that if I’d had a bit more patience I probably could have been a bit more competitive. She defends very well, so there were times when I thought I’d almost won the point and then she digs out that extra ball.
Shuker and Montjane face Colombia’s Angelica Bernal and Chile’s Macarena Cabrillana in their doubles semi-final, having beaten the same partnership twice in the last 10 days to reach the final of both of their Australian Open warm-up wheelchair tournaments. Shuker added:
“I’m looking forward to the doubles and I love playing with KG. I think our games compliment each other really well. We’ve got to two finals in the lead-in events after beating the same pair. They will be gunning for us, but hopefully we can dominate again and it’s one match at a time.”
Monday’s second day of wheelchair tennis action will also feature the men’s doubles semi-finals, with Hewett and Reid beginning their men’s doubles title defence with a contest against Fernandez and Kunieda.
Unbeaten in doubles competition in 2020, when they completed a career Grand Slam of titles together, Hewett and Reid saw their winning sequence come to an end against Fernandez and Kunieda last week at the Victorian Wheelchair Open, the first of two Australian Open lead-in tournaments.
Looking ahead to Monday’s doubles semi-final. when he and Reid begin their quest for a British record-equalling 10th Grand Slam doubles title together, Hewett said:
“It’s probably not the first round match we would have liked, having lost to them last week, but there was a lot of good in last week’s match to take forward into this week.”