Great Britain’s wheelchair tennis players are in contention to claim their best ever medal haul at the 2019 BNP Paribas World Team Cup in Ramat Hasharon, Israel, after some outstanding performances so far this week.
There have been some really good performances from everyone in the team this week – the Belgium match was probably our best one yet. It’s been a really good atmosphere, the team have been getting together and pulling each other through these games. It’s going to be a tough one coming up [against Japan] but we are ready for it. It’s exciting – like us, they have two top 10 players. As a team we want to get some revenge for last year but we are really looking forward to the fight. Alfie Hewett
The World Team Cup is held on an annual basis and is the ITF’s flagship wheelchair tennis team event – the wheelchair tennis equivalent of the Fed Cup and Davis Cup competitions. Teams from 23 nations qualified to compete in this year’s finals.
All four British teams – the Men, Women, Quads and Juniors – progressed to the semi-finals in their events this week without losing a tie in the round-robin stage, giving them all the chance to play for medals on Friday and Saturday. Great Britain is the only country to have teams compete in the semi-finals across all four events, further establishing its reputation as one of the leading nations in the world for disability tennis.
Players in the 14-strong British squad for the tournament are part of the LTA’s Wheelchair Tennis World Class Performance Programme and its Junior Futures Potential Programme.
Britain’s men’s team face Japan on Friday for a place in Saturday’s final, while the British junior team will be going for gold against Australia in their final on Friday. Both the women’s and quads teams will take on South African opposition for bronze medals on Friday.
Great Britain has won eight previous World Team Cup titles since the event’s formation in 1985, but never before has it won two titles in the same year. This year could also be the first time ever that all four British teams win medals – a feat only ever achieved before by the Netherlands and the USA, with Britain’s previous best total being the three won in 2012 when the Quads claimed silver and the Women and Juniors took bronze.
Britain’s men will be playing in the semi-finals for the fifth year in a row. Having lost to Japan in last year’s final, the 2015 champions will be aiming to turn the tables on the top seeds in Friday’s semi-final, the winners of which will face either Argentina or France for the title on Saturday. The team of Alfie Hewett, Gordon Reid and Dermot Bailey saw off South Korea, China and Belgium in the group stage, including a comprehensive 6-3 6-3 win for Hewett over world No.4 Joachim Gerard.
Ahead of the semi-final, Hewett said “There have been some really good performances from everyone in the team this week – the Belgium match was probably our best one yet. It’s been a really good atmosphere, the team have been getting together and pulling each other through these games.
“It’s going to be a tough one coming up [against Japan] but we are ready for it. It’s exciting – like us, they have two top 10 players. As a team we want to get some revenge for last year but we are really looking forward to the fight”.
Leading the charge this week has been Great Britain’s junior team who will face Australia in Friday’s final to compete for a title Britain last won in 2013 with a team that featured Alfie Hewett, and before that in 2007 with a side that included both Jordanne Whiley and Gordon Reid.
The British juniors will go into the final with confidence, despite Australia fielding a team with all three players ranked in the world’s top 10, having already defeated them 2-1 in the opening group match. The British team of Dahnon Ward, Gregory Slade, Ben Bartram and Ruby Bishop followed that up with impressive victories over top seeds Argentina and last year’s bronze medallists Columbia, before overcoming 2018 finalists Brazil 2-1 in Thursday’s semi-final.
All four British juniors have contributed to the success with wins this week. Speaking after the team secured their place in the final, Ward, who has remained unbeaten throughout the tournament including a stunning straight sets win over Brazil’s world No.4 Joao Lucas Takaki in the semi-final, said: “It’s like a dream come true. The British support here has helped me get through some tough matches. I’ve been playing good tennis all week, as have the rest of our team, so it’s great to be in the final.”
Despite losing a hard-fought semi-final 2-1 against second seeds Japan on Thursday, the British women’s team will take a lot away from this week after two brilliant group stage wins and the chance of another bronze medal. Lucy Shuker and Jordanne Whiley combined to produce a sensational 2-1 win over China, a team that had reached the final for the last three years in a row. That was followed by a 3-0 victory over France, including a win on her Great Britain debut for former Invictus Games medallist, Cornelia Oosthuizen, as she partnered Louise Hunt to earn a straight-sets doubles win.
Speaking after the semi-final defeat to Japan, Whiley said: “I think we can definitely take it tomorrow [against South Africa]. It’s not going to be easy as KG [Montjane] is a big hitter. Today was a tough one. We just had the wrong tactics. They came at us with better tactics and it wasn’t that we played terrible at all, it was more that they won it rather than we lost it.”
The Quad team of Andy Lapthorne, Antony Cotterill and James Shaw, had gone into the week with hopes of regaining the trophy they won in 2017, but will instead battle for bronze with South Africa on Friday. Their hopes of reaching another final had looked promising after group wins against Canada and South Africa. However, despite an impressive victory by Lapthorne over world No.3 Koji Sugeno in the semi-final against Japan, Lapthorne and Cotterill lost the deciding doubles rubber to lose the tie 2-1.
Reflecting after the defeat, British No.2 Cotterill said: “We are really disappointed with that match. We are still playing for a medal but we came here to win gold, and our performance just wasn’t good enough today. Hopefully we can bounce back tomorrow and take bronze.”
To find out more about the LTA’s work with disability tennis, head to www.lta.org.uk/play or email email@example.com.