2016 was a successful year for the British players at Wimbledon. Andy Murray won the singles event and Heather Watson brought home the mixed doubles title. Though, it was not only these two tennis players that made Great Britain proud. Gordon Reid, a 25-year old tennis star suffering from transverse myelitis was yet another Brit who won the wheelchair singles event.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club(A.E.L.T.C.) had grumbled for many years that grass was not the appropriate turf to contest singles events in wheelchair tennis category. Despite the fact that the doubles event is held every year since 2001, the excuse of authorities of Wimbledon was that grass was a dangerous turf to be played on and it didn’t last long. When the wheelchair tennis players showed their remarkable athleticism in the previous year, the A.E.L.T.C. decided to make it a regular event.
So how does the draw for 2017 look like for the wheelchair events that will commence from July 13?
Gentleman’s Wheelchair Singles
There is a total of 8 players who made it to the main draw of the wheelchair singles event in the male category. This means that the tournament will be starting from the quarter-finals straight away. The top two seeds of this event are Gordon Reid and Gustavo Fernandez. Shingo Kuneida, who is a former World No.1 and a multiple time grand slam winner in both the singles and doubles category was given the wild card.
Match 1: Gordon Reid vs Stefan Olsson
Reid will begin his title defense against the 2016 runner-up and former World No.2, Stefan Olsson from Sweden. It will be a re-match of the 2016 finals. Olsson ranked 7 will face Gordon Reid, who was the winner of the 2017 Australian Open wheelchair doubles this year. Gordon Reid is currently the World No.1 in wheelchair singles and will have the upper edge over his Swedish opponent.
Match 2: Shingo Kunieda vs Maikel Scheffers
Shingo Kunieda had missed out on the inaugural wheelchair singles event last year. A veteran of wheelchair tennis, Kunieda will be up against Maikel Scheffers from Netherlands. Scheffers is a two-time grand slam champion and has also held the numero uno position in the past. Both Shingo and Maikel have been World No.1 players in the past in the singles category. It will be the first time that Kunieda will play on grass turf. Ranked World No.9 now, Kunieda is expected to conquer Scheffers and prove himself to be much more than a World No.9.
Match 3: Alfie Hewett vs Nicolas Peifer
Alfie Hewett, along with Gordon Reid had won the Wimbledon doubles event last year. Ranked 6, Alfie is relatively inexperienced in comparison to his opponent, Nicolas Peifer. Peifer has been a finalist at Grand Slam events on four occasions and has won two grand slam doubles titles. Both Alfie and Nicolas are doubles-specialist and it will be difficult to decide who will be triumphant in this tussle.
Match 4: Stephane Houdet vs Gustavo Fernandez
Gustavo Fernandez, aged 23 and seeded 2, will face an opponent who is twice his age. Houdet, a 46-year-old three-time Wimbledon doubles champion and a semi-finalist last year will look forward to winning his fourth grand slam singles title. Fernandez, the wheelchair singles champion at the Australian Open this year will have to pass the test of Houdet who is an experienced grass court player. On paper, Fernandez can win this battle but don’t be surprised if you see the quadragenarian pull this off.
Ladies’ Wheelchair Singles
Just like the men, 8 women made it to the draw. Jiske Griffioen of Netherlands is the top-seeded player and Yui Kamiji of Japan is seeded second.
Match 1: Jiske Griffioen vs Aniek Van Koot
Top-seeded and defending champion, Jiske Griffioen will be up against the 2016 runner-up and fellow Dutch woman, Aniek Van Koot. Griffioen, who is an 18-time grand slam champion will look forward to winning her second singles grand slam title after the Australian Open this year. Jiske’s opponent Aniek Van Koot is the current World No.1 in the doubles category and was the runner-up last year. She has won 2-grand slam singles titles but will find an uphill task of overcoming Jiske Griffioen’s challenge.
Match 2: Jordanne Whiley vs Diede de Groot
Diede de Groot, only 20 years old is currently ranked three in the world. She turned pro this year and was a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. She was the runner-up in the singles event in the first two slams of the year. She has been consistent on tour so far. She will be up against World No.10, Jordanne Whiley who is a three-time doubles champion at Wimbledon and a semi-finalist in the singles event last year. Groot’s current form will make this tie tilt in her favor.
Match 3: Marjolein Buis vs Sabine Ellerbock
World No.5, Marjolein Buis who won her first grand slam singles title at Roland Garros last year will face 41-year-old Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany who is two-time singles grand slam champion. Marjolein was a semi-finalist last year and will probably be the favorite to win this matchup.
Match 4: Lucy Shuker vs Yui Kamiji
Lucy Shuker is the second British representative after Jordanne Whiley this year in the ladies singles event. Shuker is yet to win a grand slam title and was a semi-finalist at the Australian Open this year. She was handed the wild card for this tournament and is currently ranked 7th. She will be up against the second seed, Yui Kamiji who has been the doubles champion at Wimbledon for the past three years. She is ranked No.2 in both singles and doubles. Yui Kamiji has been sensational in 2017 with both the Australian Open and Roland Garros singles titles under her belt. She is considered to be the potential champion this year at Wimbledon and should find no difficulties in her tie against Lucy Shuker.
“When we push our wheelchairs on a hard court, we could roll for 20 metres without touching the wheels again, but then when you’re on grass, you push your chair and you’ll stop about a metre in front of you because there’s just no momentum.”– GORDON REID