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Wheelchair report: Tripleheader for titles

Americans Nick Taylor and David Wagner win the wheelchair quad doubles finals at the 2013 US Open.
By Nicholas J. Walz
Saturday, September 7, 2013

A trio of US Open Wheelchair Tennis Competition finals headlined the Court 13 schedule on Saturday, as the quad, men’s and women’s doubles events came to a close.

Americans David Wagner and Nick Taylor remained undefeated as a duo at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, defeating South African Lucas Sithole and Great Britain’s Andrew Lapthorne, 6-0, 2-6, 6-3. The crowd cheered loud for the now five-time US Open Wheelchair Competition champs, as they rebounded from a shaky second stanza to win four games in succession at the start of the third and deciding frame. The winning team claimed 19 of 28 receiving points in the third without any unforced errors.

"I don't want to say we went flat, I think we became a little complacent," said Taylor on being forced to a winner-take-all third set. "We looked at each other at the beginning of the third and we said: 'Everything we got, right here.' That first game was so huge just to swing that momentum back our way."

"Deep down inside, we don't want to lose," added Wagner. "People do bring up the fact that we haven't lost here and that's great, but we're never thinking we're the best. We don't really talk about it. But it's there, and we know if we play our best, we'll have a chance to win."

A few hours earlier, France’s Michael Jeremiasz and Maikel Scheffers of the Netherlands won the first wheelchair trophy of the 2013 tournament when they took down Argentinean Gustavo Fernandez and Belgian Joachim Gerard, 6-0, 4-6, 6-3. The men have both held the trophy in years past but never at the same time; Jeremiasz was part of the first men’s doubles pairing to ever win in New York with partner Robin Ammerlaan in 2005 and again in 2006, while Scheffers won in 2010 with partner Ronald Vink.

For Aniek Van Koot, the afternoon completed her career Grand Slam in women’s doubles, as she and partner Jiske Griffioen defeated Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock and Japan’s Yui Kamiji, 6-3, 6-4. In 2011, the Dutchwomen lost a tough three-set encounter to compatriots Sharon Walraven and Esther Vergeer – the only US Open Wheelchair Competition match in Vergeer’s career that went more than two sets – and Van Koot had been 0-3 in Flushing Meadows finals until today. The 23-year-old former world No. 1 will look for a second event win when she takes on Ellerbrock in the singles final on Sunday. Griffioen, celebrating her third doubles crown, had previously paired up with Vergeer for wins in 2006 and 2007.

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Before the doubles, Sithole notched his third win in as many days in quad singles action, eliminating Lapthorne from finals contention, with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-1 victory on Court 13. Like he did against Wagner on Friday, Sithole turned a one-sided, first-set defeat into a rallying point. The world No. 3 converted both break-point opportunities that came his way in the final set to set up a rematch with the two-time defending quad champion Wagner, who blanked Taylor, 6-0, 6-0, on Court 10.

It will be the first time in US Open Wheelchair Competition history that a player from a country other than the United States or Great Britain will challenge for the crown.

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Twelve-time US Open champion Esther Vergeer was recognized for her career achievements during an on-court ceremony after the Sithole vs. Lapthorne match, a celebration complete with the presentation of flowers, champagne and a Tiffany & Co. bracelet. US Open Wheelchair Competition Tournament Director David Schobel and U.S. Paralympic Tennis Coach and USTA Manager, Wheelchair Tennis Dan James emceed the short program.

“I'm very honored at this moment,” said Vergeer, who went undefeated in both women’s singles and doubles in her six appearances in New York. “I really enjoy coming here because I always feel welcome. The crowds that have come out here and supported not only me but all the players, it makes me feel proud that I could be a part of this.”

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