The draw for the sixth and final Super Series event on the wheelchair tennis tour has been made and among those challenging for titles this week at the USTA US Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships are five of Britain’s top players.
The event in St Louis will see Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett compete in the men’s open division, Lucy Shuker challenge for the title in the women’s open division and Andy Lapthorne and Antony Cotterill looking to triumph in the quads.
And for Hewett, Lapthorne, Reid and Shuker it will be their final tournament before they move on to Flushing Meadows and the last Grand Slam of the season, the US Open, next week.
Potential for an all-British final?
In a year which has seen no single player dominate the men’s draw when it comes to lifting titles at Super Series level, both Reid and Hewett have been impressively consistent.
Reid has reached three out five finals, winning in Japan and finishing as runner-up in France and South Africa.
And Hewett isn’t that far behind him having made it to two finals already in 2017, one at the beginning of the year in Australia and the other most recently at the British Open, where it was runners-up honours for him on both occasions.
They will begin their campaigns against players they have never met before on court – Reid will face Mexico’s Carlos Muro and Hewett the USA’s Casey Ratzlaff after his R32 straight set win over fellow American Todd Hanover today.
Should they make it through these matches, a potential semi-final meeting with World No.1 Gustavo Fernandez could await Hewett,
And standing in the way of Reid making a fourth Super Series final in 2017 are possible head to heads against three players who like him have spent time at the top of the men’s rankings – Shingo Kunieda, Stephane Houdet and Joachim Gerard.
So there will potentially be tough matches to face for both of the British men this week if there are no upsets.
However, with Hewett and Reid having put in some impressive performances on the tour this season and on opposite sides of the draw there is certainly the possibility that we could see an all-British affair when it comes to the singles final at the end of the week.
Building on success
Coming into this tournament on the back of reaching the semi-finals in singles and lifting the doubles title with Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock in Canada only a few days ago, British number one Shuker should be feeling confident.
Shuker won her opening match against Japan’s Saki Takumuro, a replay of her R16 match at this years Arizona Open, where she lifted both the singles and doubles titles., today in straight sets 6-3 6-0
She will now go on to face a tough test with World number one Yui Kamiji waiting for her on the other side of the net, a player who has had an incredible run of form in 2017 but who is not unbeatable.
This year has seen Shuker come out on top against higher ranked players on a number of occasions already, including Marjolein Buis in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, so if she can draw on that experience and combine it with her varied play there is no reason why she can’t challenge Kamiji in the quarter-final.
Aiming for the top spot
For Britain’s top quads player Lapthorne success in St Louis could see him strengthen his bid to become world number one, hopefully by the end of the year, but if not in 2017 something he is determined to achieve before the end of his career.
Speaking at the British Open earlier in the month he said: “It’ll be tough but if I can get to number one in a generation like we have right now where there are so many great players it shows a lot and it would be great to say that at the end of my career I’ve been at the top of the mountain at least once.”
Lapthorne has already featured in the last two of this years Super Series finals, finishing as runner-up to the USA’s David Wagner on both occasions.
Standing in the way of him making the final in St Louis though are prospective match-ups against fellow Brit Antony Cotterill, who will have to get past Canada’s Mika Ishikawa to set up a possible quarter-final meeting with Lapthorne and World number four Lucas Sithole.
But get past those tests and waiting on the opposite side of the net in the final could potentially be a familiar face in current World number one and Lapthorne’s on court rival, Wagner.