Andy Lapthorne guaranteed himself at least a silver medal after he reached the quad singles final at the Paralympics in Rio with a three set win over American world No. 2 David Wagner.
In a topsy turvy, emotional match, Lapthorne found a way past his old rival 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 to book his spot in the final, where he will play world No.1 Dylan Alcott, who beat Lucas Sithole 6-0, 6-3.
After racing to a 3-0 lead in the first set Lapthorne was pegged back to 3-3, however he maintained his composure to break Wagner again and secure the set.
Wagner took the second set before a tight final set swung both ways. Lapthorne made the crucial breakthrough to lead 4-3 and then held to love. Strong returning from Lapthorne put the pressure on Wagner, who buckled and the tears began to flow as Lapthorne guaranteed himself his first Paralympic singles medal.
“I honestly don’t know what to say. That was the best night of my life bar none. I will forever love Rio for this night. To lie there on Centre Court and take it all in that I’ve guaranteed myself a medal is incredible. I’ve been struggling with my backhand for ages and I won the match with a backhand slice down the line! It feels like my destiny,” he said.
“I still want that gold and I’ve had some amazing matches with Dylan [Alcott] so I know we’ll be able to showcase our sport and I hope everyone gets behind me at home and here in Rio.”
There was further British joy on a long day in Rio with 18-year-old Alfie Hewett continuing his fine form in the men’s singles, beating world No.4 Nicolas Peifer to make the quarter-finals.
In a match of epic proportions Hewett held his never to come through 7-6(4) 4-6, 6-3, despite problems with his chair at the start. Hewett will now play seventh seed Stefan Olsson for a place in the last four.
“I can’t even put into words how much that means to me and it was such a tense, up and down match that to come through it is incredible,” said Hewett. “The British support I had on court was just amazing and I’ve got lots of people at home, especially my grandad, who have supported me so much throughout my career so far. I’m so proud to have done this for them, for the sport and for the British public.”
He will be joined in the last eight by compatriot and doubles partner Gordon Reid, who continued his serene progress in Rio as he breezed past Frederic Cattaneo of France 6-0, 6-2. Double Wimbledon Champion Reid will face Roland Garros Champion Gustavo Fernandez in the quarter finals.
The pair then joined forces to keep their campaign for doubles gold on track as they moved into the quarter-finals with a comfortable 6-2, 6-0 victory over Daniel Caverzaschi and Martin de la Puente of Spain.
There was less joy for Britain’s women, Jordanne Whiley and Lucy Shuker, as they saw their quest for a doubles gold medal come to an end at the hands of the Dutch top seeds Jiske Griffioen and Aniek Van Koot. Whiley and Shuker fought back well from 5-0 down in the first set and had their chances throughout, but went down 6-3, 6-3 to the Dutch pairing. They will now aim to repeat their bronze medal performance from London 2012.
“It’s such a shame we had such a slow start because I think we could have taken them to three sets if we’d started off playing as well as were at the end there. The score doesn’t really do it justice as the games were really long and competitive,” said Shuker. “It’s a replay of London 2012 and we still want to defend that bronze now we’ve lost the chance of gold and silver.”
Whiley also saw her hopes of an individual gold medal dashed as she lost to talented Dutch youngster Diede de Groot 6-3, 6-1.
Tomorrow will see medal chances for Lapthorne and doubles partner Burdekin as they play in the bronze medal match against Israel. Whiley and Shuker also play Japanese opponents Yui Kamiji and Miho Nijo in their bronze medal match.