British Open Preview

British Open Preview
MEN’S OVERVIEW

The fifth of six Super Series tournaments on the 2018 UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour, the British Open welcomes one of the strongest fields ever assembled for this event with eight of the world’s top 10 men’s players competing here at Nottingham Tennis Centre.

Alfie Hewett & Gordon Reid

Among them are three-time Wimbledon doubles champions Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid, who head the home challenge once again with the aim of becoming the first ever British men’s winner of this title. Both players are among four different men’s singles champions at the four Super Series tournament held so far this year. That fact alone suggests competition for the men’s singles title in Nottingham will be remarkably open and we can expect an enthralling week of wheelchair tennis.

Hewett, the 2017 Roland Garros champion, contested the first two Super Series finals of the season against Japan’s Shingo Kunieda, with Kunieda winning the first in Sydney, before Hewett came out on top to win his first career Super Series singles title at the Cajun Classic in Baton Rouge in March.

In fact, the first three Super Series men’s finals of 2018 were British-Japanese contests, as former Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Reid also met Kunieda in the final of the Japan Open, beating the Australian Open and Roland Garros champion in three sets.

Five-time winner Kunieda is one of five former British Open champions from five different countries in this year’s men’s field. They include Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez, who beat Hewett in last year’s final. Fernandez returns to Nottingham in fine form, having retained his title at last month’s Open de France, the most recent Super Series tournament, where he beat 2013 British Open champion Joachim Gerard in the final.

Gerard won his first career Super Series title five years ago on Nottingham Tennis Centre’s indoor courts, due to rain on finals day. With the recent heatwave that Britain has experienced we all hope, of course, that this year’s tournament will be played in glorious sunshine throughout the six days of competition. Either way, Gerard is likely to be among the main contenders once again and the former world No.1 comes to Nottingham on the back of having been awarded a wild card for Wimbledon.

Stefan Olsson

All five former British Open champions competing this year have been world No.1 in the men’s singles rankings at one time or another, although seven-time ITF World champion Kunieda is by far the most successful, with over 400 weeks as world No.1 since 2006.

Aside from Kunieda’s five British Open titles, other returning multiple winners include two-time champions Stephane Houdet of France, the champion in 2015 and 2016, and Maikel Scheffers of the Netherlands, the winner in 2010 and 2011.

Another player to look out for is Sweden’s Stefan Olsson, who won his first career Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon in 2017. Olsson has already enjoyed success in Britain this summer, becoming the inaugural winner of the first ever wheelchair tennis tournament at the Fever-Tree Championships at The Queen’s Club in June and last week winning his second Wimbledon singles title.

Wherever you look, the men’s draw here in Nottingham is absolutely packed with quality – we look forward to seeing who will lift the title at the end of the week!

QUADS OVERVIEW

As with the entries for the men’s and women’s singles the field for the quad singles at the 2018 British Open features eight of the world’s top 10 players.

Andy Lapthorne at the British Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships
Andy Lapthorne

Three of those players – Great Britain’s Andy Lapthorne, American David Wagner and Lucas Sithole of South Africa – arrive in Nottingham after playing in the first ever quad doubles exhibition at Wimbledon and all three are strong contenders for the British Open title.

World No.1 Wagner and Sithole are the only entrants this year to have previously won the British Open title. Wagner is also the player to have enjoyed most success so far in 2018 – the American has only won one Super Series title this season on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis World Tour, at May’s Japan Open, but began the year by reaching the final of the Sydney International. Wagner starts his British Open title defence on the back of winning his 12th Swiss Open quad singles crown 10 days ago.

Also the 2007 and 2009 British Open champion, Wagner beat Lapthorne in last year’s final and with Lapthorne having reached three of the last four British Open finals some would say he is overdue a victory at his home Super Series. Wagner beat Lapthorne in the 2016 semi-finals, while Australia’s Dylan Alcott and Sithole denied Lapthorne in the 2014 and 2015 finals, respectively.

Sithole’s 2013 British Open title was noteworthy for the fact that he became the first African player to win a Super Series wheelchair tennis title after beating Wagner in a memorable final. When Sithole regained the title in 2015 he beat Wagner in the semi-finals, but the South African has not beaten Wagner in 17 subsequent matches.

A 2018 season that started with Rio Paralympic silver medallist Lapthorne battling to overcome injury has seen him reach two Super Series finals to date, at the Cajun Classic in March and at last month’s Open de France. The player to beat Lapthorne in France was Koji Sugeno. Sugeno also defeated Wagner in the semi-finals and having climbed significantly up the rankings this season the Japanese player is another contender for this year’s British Open title.

In the absence of two-time British Open champion Alcott, Heath Davidson carries Australian hopes. Davidson reached the semi-finals in Nottingham 12 month ago, and if he can rediscover the form that saw him beat Wagner to reach the US Open USTA Championships Super Series final last year he is another player with a real chance of going deep into this year’s British Open once again.

James Shaw hits a forehand
James Shaw

American Bryan Barten and Brazil’s Ymanitu Silva are other players to look out for, while Antony Cotterill, local Nottinghamshire hope James Shaw and National champion Richard Green join Lapthorne in providing a strong home challenge.

Shaw, from Ruddington, will hope he can at least equal his 2017 British Open performance, when he reached the quad singles quarter-finals before bowing out to top seed Wagner. Shaw too will hope for a good performance, having reached eight finals in singles or doubles this year, winning two singles titles to date.

WOMEN’S OVERVIEW

If Super Series wins so far in 2018 are anything to go by, then there are two standout players to look out for here in Nottingham. All four Super Series women’s titles so far this season have been shared equally between just two players – 2017 British Open finalists Yui Kamiji and Diede de Groot.

Yui Kamiji

In fact, the last eight meetings between the world’s top two ranked players, starting with last year’s British Open title decider, have all been finals. Not only have they shared this season’s four Super Series titles, but Kamiji and de Groot have won them alternatively – Kamiji winning the Sydney International Open in January and May’s Japan Open, while de Groot clinched the Cajun Classic in the USA in March and then last month’s Open de France title in Paris.

While it would be accurate to say Kamiji and de Groot have dominated 2018 so far, they are just two of eight of the world’s top 10 ranked players who are vying for the British Open title. De Groot has yet to win the British Open, her 6-4, 6-3 loss to Kamiji in the 2017 final being the closest she’s come to date. Kamiji, meanwhile, returns to Nottingham as a two-time British Open champion. Her maiden tile in Nottingham in 2014 followed a first British Open title for Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock in 2013.

Ellerbrock, the 2017 Wimbledon runner-up, returned to SW19 last week having only reached one singles final this season. Ellerbrock partnered Lucy Shuker in this year’s Wimbledon where they reached the ladies doubles final.

Prior to Ellerbrock’s 2013 victory, Dutch legend Esther Vergeer’s 2012 win in Nottingham brought her a 12th successive British Open victory. Since Vergeeer’s retirement in early 2013 no Dutch player has added their name to the women’s singles roll of honour, but Aniek van Koot shares the distinction with de Groot of having reached the final.

Van Koot, twice a runner-up to Britain’s Jordanne Whiley in 2015 and 2016, is once again a contender, while other top 10-ranked players to look out for include South Africa’s Kgothatso Montjane, Germany’s Katharina Kruger, Dana Mathewson of the USA and, of course British No.1 Lucy Shuker.

Lucy Shuker plays a forehand
Lucy Shuker

Shuker is one of the select handful of entrants this year to have a Super Series singles title to her name after she triumphed at the 2016 US Open USTA Championships in St. Louis. The two-time Paralympic bronze medallist and four-time Wimbledon doubles finalist will be aiming to go beyond the singles quarter-finals in the singles here for the first time, as well as aiming for more doubles success – she signed off from the 2017 British Open in fine style after winning an entertaining mixed doubles final alongside Stephane Houdet.

Completing the British contingent in the women’s singles will be Lauren Jones, who alongside Shuker won a bronze medal for Great Britain in the 2018 World Team Cup – so be sure to give them as much home crowd support as you can!