As the end of the 2017 wheelchair tennis season approaches, the wait is over for fans as they found out which players would qualify for the season finale to the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis World Tour.
Among the list, which includes 22 of the top players on the planet, are four of the best from Great Britain – Alfie Hewett, Gordon Reid, Lucy Shuker and Andy Lapthorne.
And with so many athletes from the Tennis Foundation’s World Class Programme featuring, it means that no other nation will have more players representing them at this prestigious tournament than Great Britain, who with with their fab four are only equalled in number by the Netherlands.
Meaning there will no doubt be plenty for British tennis fans to cheer about at the 2017 season-ending championships, which will be held from November 29th – December 3rd in Loughborough.
Reid said: “If you’ve not seen wheelchair tennis before, come and give it a go – there are plenty of British players to support, so come and make some noise for us.”
The 2016 Masters saw Gordon Reid finish as runner-up to Belgium’s Joachim Gerard and end the year on top of the world rankings in the men’s division.
During last years tournament he won every single one of his round robin matches, seeing him drop just one set over the three matches, before memorably defeating Stephane Houdet in the semi-finals securing him the year-end World number one spot.
One year on and we’ve witnessed current World number four Reid successfully defend his singles title in Rotterdam, return to the number one spot for a brief spell and for the third time in his career after triumphing at the Japan Open and feature in all four doubles finals at the Grand Slams, three of which he’s won – Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
His doubles victory in the 2017 Australian Open alongside Gerard also saw him achieve a career Grand Slam.
And no doubt he will now have his eyes firmly on the prize in Loughborough, hoping to go one better than last year and looking to claim the 2017 title.
Reid said: “I’ve had a mixed year, but I’ve had a bit of break since the US Open so I feel refreshed and I’m looking forward to getting back to competing.”
If Alfie Hewett wins any more silverware in 2017 we’re pretty sure he’s going to need a bigger trophy cabinet.
This time last year he was getting ready to make his debut at the 2016 Masters having made his mark on the senior tour by winning the doubles title at Wimbledon alongside Gordon Reid and also collecting two silver medals at the Rio Paralympics.
Achievements which saw him break into the top eight in the men’s division in style.
Fast forward one year and now ranked number three in the world, he’s since added three more Grand Slam titles, including his historic singles win at Roland Garros, to his growing list of achievements and all before he turns 20.
Hewett said: “It’s been a great season for me and I’m looking forward to try and finish the year on a high.
“It’s always great to play in front of a good crowd and being a home event it means that little bit extra.
“The top eight is really open this year, so it’s going to be very interesting.”
Lucy Shuker is no stranger to the season-ending championships and will go into this years tournament on the back of an incredible run of form at recent tournaments across the pond.
September has seen her dominate the competitions in the USA and Canada, picking up five out of the nine titles she’s been in the running for between the end of August and the start of October, including her memorable Super Series doubles title at the US Open USTA Wheelchair Championships partnering Japan’s Yui Kamiji .
But Shuker’s 2017 hasn’t just been about what September has seen her achieve, she started off the year with a bang by beating the Netherlands Marjolein Buis in straight sets in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and has gone on to claim victory over a number of the top seeded women over the course of the year.
She’s also managed to do the double twice, winning both singles and doubles titles at the Arizona Open in March as well as at the Canada International Champs in September.
Shuker said: “I’m very excited that I’ll once again be competing alongside the very best wheelchair tennis players in the world.
“The Tennis Foundation has really raised the level of the event so I’m looking forward to experiencing another memorable Masters tournament.”
Andy Lapthorne is another British player who has lived the American dream when it’s come to claiming titles in 2017.
Last month saw him claim the singles title at the US Open USTA Wheelchair Championships as well as finish as runner-up in singles at the US Open.
And in doubles he claimed both the US Open and USTA Wheelchair Championships titles alongside David Wagner.
Last years Masters saw him finish third but by reaching both the singles and doubles finals in half of the tour events he has competed in already this year, as well as bringing the quads World Team Cup title back to Britain alongside Antony Cotterill and James Shaw, it will put him firmly in contention as one of the players to watch when it comes to lifting the title in 2017.
And let’s not forget that fantastic singles victory over Dylan Alcott at the US Open, ending Alcott’s unbeaten run and meaning he is still the only player in the quads division to beat the Australian number one in his last 50 matches.
Lapthorne said: “This has been a pretty good year for me, probably one of the best of my career other than winning a singles Grand Slam.
“My eyes all year have been on that year-end World number one ranking so my aim is to win the Masters and see where that takes me.”
Video produced by Tennis Foundation https://youtu.be/c8dPbkf7_9k
Anyone wanting to get close to the action can secure tickets now via www.wheelchairtennismasters.com, priced £8 for adults, half price concessions and just £1 for children, while the event will also be streamed live.