Brits set to start challenge at Roland Garros wheelchair tennis event

Brits set to start challenge at Roland Garros wheelchair tennis event
Gordon Reid at Roland Garros 2016

Gordon Reid faces 2016 men’s champion Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina when the Roland Garros wheelchair tennis event begins on Thursday.

Tennis Foundation Wheelchair Tennis World Class Programme trio Reid, Alfie Hewett and Jordanne Whiley make up a three-strong Brit challenge.

World No.1 Reid, who received his 2016 ITF World Champion’s trophy on Tuesday evening, won two of the three Grand Slam singles titles last season.

Reid and fellow Rio Paralympic men’s singles finalist Alfie Hewett are drawn in opposite halves of the draw in Paris. Hewett makes his Roland Garros debut against 2016 Wimbledon finalist Stefan Olsson of Sweden.

“I’m really excited for my first Roland Garros, especially having made my debut at the Australian Open in January,” said world No. 7 Hewett. “This is obviously much closer to home and it’s going to be great to have the support from family and friends.”

Alfie Hewett at Wimbledon
Alfie Hewett

Hewett, who reached the final of the men’s doubles at January’s Australian Open, partnering Fernandez, renews his Rio Paralympic silver medal-winning doubles partnership with Reid this week.

The Brits will bid for a second Grand Slam doubles title together after their memorable victory at Wimbledon last July. Reid won his fifth Grand Slam doubles title in Australia in January. He bids for a hat-trick of doubles titles in Paris after back-to-back titles with Shingo Kunieda.

“Playing doubles at a Grand Slam with Gordon again is going to be great after we met in the doubles final at the Australian Open. I’m really excited for that. Hopefully we can translate our form on the grass at Wimbledon last summer onto the clay at the start of another big summer of tournaments,” said Hewett.

Hewett and Reid will face Fernandez and Dutchman Maikel Scheffers in their Roland Garros semi-final.

Nine-time Grand Slam champion Jordanne Whiley returns to action on Thursday. Whiley makes her seasonal debut against 2013 champion Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany at the second major of the year. It will be Whiley’s first competitive match since recovering from injury.

Jordanne Whiley plays a forehand at Roland Garros
Jordanne Whiley playing at Roland Garros

The 24-year-old two-time Paralympic medallist has fond memories of Roland Garros, having won two of her eight Grand Slam doubles titles in France. She also reached the women’s singles semi-finals in 2016 after beating world No. 1 Jiske Griffioen in her opening match. But having not played competitively since the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters in London in December, Whiley is grateful to be back playing amongst the world’s elite.

“It’s been frustrating as my training has been off and on, so I’m really happy and excited I’m able to compete here after missing the Aussie open earlier this year,” said Whiley, the 2015 US Open women’s singles champion.

“I’m definitely feeling less pressure. I’ve got nothing to lose and I have no real expectations as it’s my first tournament of the year. It’s just good to be competing again.”

Whiley will also strike up a first-time doubles partnership with Dutchwoman Diede de Groot in the women’s doubles in Paris. She is also looking to renew her eight-time Grand Slam-winning doubles partnership with Yui Kamiji of Japan at Wimbledon.

Whiley and de Groot play Kamiji and Marjolein Buis of the Netherlands in their women’s doubles semi-final at Roland Garros.