Great Britain’s new quad singles world No.1 Andy Lapthorne will play American David Wagner in his opening match on Wednesday at the Australian Open as four Brits on the LTA’s GB Wheelchair Tennis World Class Performance Programme begin their challenges at the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne.
Alfie Hewett will play Stephane Houdet of France and former champion Gordon Reid will face defending champion Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina in the men’s singles, while Jordanne Whiley will play world No.2 Yui Kamiji of Japan in the women’s singles.
Lapthorne today becomes the latest Brit to attain a world No.1 senior ranking, moving ahead of Australian Dylan Alcott after points won at the 2019 Australian Open dropped off the rankings published by the International Tennis Federation.
Lapthorne, the reigning US Open champion after beating Alcott comprehensively in the final in New York in September, said:
To be heading into the 2020 Australian Open as the singles world No.1 for the first time in my career is a dream come true and I'm going to fight with all I have this week to stay at No.1. Andy Lapthorne
After playing his doubles partner Wagner in his opening match at Melbourne Park, Lapthorne will then face both Alcott and his fellow Australian Heath Davidson in his remaining singles matches, with the top two players after the round-robin going forward to the quad singles final.
Lapthorne and Wagner will also play Alcott and Davidson in the quad doubles title decider scheduled for Thursday as the Anglo-American partnership bid for their fourth Australian Open title together.
Lapthorne added: “Me and David are used to playing each other and then pairing up for doubles, especially in Melbourne. It’s nothing new. We have a great Australian Open record together and hopefully we can put it together this year on the big points and grab another Grand Slam title.”
Hewett also won his second US Open title in September but is still seeking his first singles match win at the Australian Open. However, after reaching back-to-back singles finals at his first two tournaments of 2020, the 22-year-old world No.3 will be hoping he can add to a four-match winning streak over Houdet. Hewett said:
“It’s been a strong opening to the year and making four finals from four events was a big goal of mine coming into the Australian Open. I’ve been training hard over the winter block, so it’s great to see it translate on to the court and gives me great confidence going into the Grand Slam after beating a few players I haven’t beaten for a while.”
It’s four years since Gordon Reid began his best season to date with his first Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open. Wimbledon and Rio Paralympic titles followed and as a new Paralympic year gathers pace, world No.2 Reid will be looking to open his latest challenge at Melbourne Park by ending world No. 2 Fernandez’ title defence.
Three-time Wimbledon and US Open doubles champions Hewett and Reid will meet reigning Roland Garros champions Fernandez and Shingo Kunieda in the men’s doubles semi-finals at Melbourne Park as the Brits look to extend their unbeaten sequence for 2020. They followed up Super Series victory in Tweed Heads with the ITF 1 Melbourne Open title over the weekend.
Whiley returns to the first major of the year for the first time since 2016 after launching her comeback from maternity leave last February. Like Hewett, former US Open champion Whiley has also reached singles finals at the first two tournaments of 2020 in Australia.
In both finals she has finished runner-up to Kamiji, but will gain confidence from coming from 4-0 down to level the second set of their latest title decider at the Melbourne Open on Saturday.
“I’ve had a great two weeks so far and feel as though I’ve played some good, solid tennis. I just need to gear it up one more notch this week to really compete with the world’s best. I’m really excited to be back here in Melbourne after four years and I’m aiming for the semi-finals. It’s our son’s second birthday this week and I’m gutted to be away for that, but I’m doing my best out here and the results so far make it all well worth it.”
Melbourne Park holds extra special memories for ten-time Grand Slam champion Whiley, who won her first major title in Australia, partnering Kamiji, in 2014. The duo went on to win all four Grand Slam women’s doubles titles six years ago, with Whiley becoming the first Brit to complete a calendar year Grand Slam in any discipline. Now nine-time doubles champions together at the majors, Whiley and Kamiji will play Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany and Kgothatso Montjane of South Africa in their semi-final this week.