11/27/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/27/2019 08:43
Joachim Gerard of Belgium, Diede de Groot of Netherlands and David Wagner of USA added to their NEC Wheelchair Singles Masters title collections on Sunday as the ITF's year-end championship on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour came to a fascinating conclusion at the USTA National Campus in Orlando.
Gerard made it four NEC Masters men's singles titles in five years as the Belgian completed a tough 2019 with his first singles title of the season, retaining his crown in Orlando with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over 2017 champion Alfie Hewett.
Only Hewett has prevented Gerard from a clean sweep of NEC Masters titles since 2015, beating Gerard in the 2017 semifinals before going on to become the youngest winner of the men's singles title.
In return, Gerard prevented Hewett, who missed the 2019 NEC Masters, from winning two titles in a row, after earning a double break advantage on his way to taking the opening set and then claiming the last two games against the US Open champion to close out victory in an hour and 29 minutes.
'I think it was a very good week for me and a very good level. Not all the time, but if I manage to stay calm, like I did today, I can win the tough matches,' said Gerard. 'Alfie was not at his best today, but I showed that my mental strength is there and I have to continue like this and work on it every day.
'It's my only title in singles this year, but we came here just to play my tennis and see if it works. We have worked hard at home in the last three months and we wanted to see how it's going on. I just want to enjoy the game that I play and see the results as we look to next year,' added Gerard, who is now working with new coach Damien Martinquet following the passing of his long-time coach Marc Grandjean earlier this year.
Wagner claims 11th NEC Masters quad title
Experience triumphed over youth as world No. 3 David Wagner earned his 11th NEC Masters quad singles title since 2005, beating 16-year-old Dutchman Niels Vink 6-3 6-4 to end any prospect of Vink becoming the youngest ever champion in the 26-year history of the NEC Masters.
With Wagner coming into the final having lost both of his previous matches against world No. 6 Vink this season, the winning-most NEC Masters champion reeled off four games in a row to take the opening set.
Serving for the opener at 5-3-up, Wagner had two break points against him at 15-40, but held firm and Vink sent a service return into the net on the American's first set point. Wagner twice held a break advantage in the second set before eventually wrapping up his first career win over Vink after an hour and 17 minutes.
'Its awesome to get it at home. It was not expected. I came here to do the best I could and that was alright. I'm just happy to play and complete and get the opportunity to go for another one,' said Wagner after winning his first title since having hernia surgery shortly after Wimbledon.
'I feel like there's always toom for more improvement, so I'm going to keep working on that, but it certainly feels good to get this one after the hernia surgery. It's always a good way to end the year at a tough even with strong players like this. I just want to play my best and I'm looking forward to next year.
'John Devorss (coach) came up with a great plan for me and I just need to keep believing in it and trusting in it and staying the course. We trust in each other and when we do that we're able to do what we need to do.
De Groot completes NEC Masters hat-trick against Kamiji
World No. 1 Diede de Groot completed a hat-trick of NEC Masters women's singles titles as she beat world No.2 Yui Kamiji in the final of the year-end championships for the third year in a row, claiming her second title of the week in Orlando 6-2 6-3.
A day after winning her first UNIQLO Wheelchair Doubles Masters title partnering her countrywoman Aniek van Koot, De Groot continued the Dutch dominance of the NEC Masters women's singles roll of honour as she earned a commanding 4-1 first set lead against Kamiji and closed out the last two games.
Kamiji remains the only non-Dutch player to have won the NEC Masters women's tiles after her victory in Mission Viejo, USA, in 2013. However, Kamiji has yet to take a set off De Groot in back-to-back finals in Orlando and despite her forcing a string of deuce games throughout this year's title decider, De Groot came up with the answers more often than not and closed out victory after an hour and 22 minutes.
'I definitely felt the pressure of getting the game at 3-1 in the first set. I think we both did,' said De Groot referring to a game that involved the best past of 20 deuces. 'I was a bit nervous and sometime there were good points and sometimes not.
'The score was 6-3, 6-2 but that's not how it felt. it felt much tougher than that. I knew that I had to stay on top and stay confident. The last few matches I've played against Yui I wasn't vey good on the returning games. That's very important because on your own serving games she is very good at returning, so the pressure's on. So I wanted to create the same thing, in her services games, so I was on top and I could hit the return in any corner I wanted.'