Dutch and French tennis fans, rejoice – some US Open hardware is coming back to Europe.
The top-seeded duo of Esther Vergeer and Sharon Walraven, two of the cornerstone members of the Netherlands ITF World Team Cup squad, survived the challenge of countrywomen Aniek Van Koot and Jiske Griffioen, 7-5, 6-7 (8), 6-4 to capture the 2011 US Open Wheelchair Women’s Doubles championship.
After an intense three hours and 12 minutes on Court 13, Vergeer and Walraven – the latter whom spent part of last week in the hospital due to a 104-degree fever and dehydration – were exhausted by ecstatic to win their second-consecutive Open title.
“Winning this match means a great deal,” said Walraven. “To get out here against a tough team who has beaten us before and playing their best tennis… its great."
Vergeer and Walraven looked like they had things sewn up in the second set, pushing Griffioen and Van Koot to match point twice before the No. 2 seeded team forced a tiebreak and eventually won, forcing a one set, winner-take-all third set. Even Vergeer, who has become legendary for her eight-year undefeated streak in singles competition, was not surprised at the scenario.
“We were telling each other: ‘Keep hitting the ball, keep pushing,’” said Vergeer.
“Its hard to find a real spot that’s going to hurt them - they’ve been playing together for two years now and they’re getting better,” added Vergeer of Van Koot and Griffioen. “They’re improving so much, and because we play one another in singles and in doubles so many times, we know its going to be tough with knowledge of weaknesses and strengths. Its extremely satisfying to win.”
Just minutes prior, the Men’s Doubles were decided when France’s Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer pulled off the minor upset of Dutch No. 1’s Maikel Scheffers and Ronald Vink in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1. By comparison to the women, the Court 11 crowd barely needed to sit for the 73-minute constest that saw the Frenchmen convert six of seven break point opportunities and fire six aces to their opponents’ none.
For the match, Houdet and Peifer committed just one unforced error – and though they were happy to hold the trophy, they acknowledged the quality of their opponents.
“We know that Maikel is not 100-percent,” said Houdet after the win. “They got us at Wimbledon, its great to win now.”
For the Quads, it was the final day of Round Robin play for the singles draw and the theme was American glory: Defending Quad champion David Wagner bested longtime rival Peter Norfolk of Great Britain, 6-4, 6-2. Wagner, who was shocked on Thursday in his first match against Israeli Noam Gershony, rallied on Friday against Nick Taylor and today to finish 2-1, matching up once more with Norfolk tomorrow in the singles final.
The turning point of the match came when Wagner broke Norfolk – of whom Wagner remarked has “a big, nasty serve” – to make the first set 5-4 and then held. The match was delayed 45 minutes due to rain shortly after the second set began, but it did not halt Wagner’s momentum.
“I’ll have to play well again and try to repeat as much as I can,” said Wagner. “Today, I felt I played the best that I can play – if I can play the same each time I step on the court, then I’ll be in good shape.”
After Gershony’s upset, Wagner needed help with a win from Taylor, who aided his longtime friend and doubles partner with a three-set, come-from-behind triumph over Gershony, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (3) that sandwiched the same rain layoff. Taylor had lost to Norfolk and Wagner but used his serve to set up a solid match, winning 154 total points and not committing an unforced error or double fault in the contest.
“I really, really needed that win,” said Taylor. “Granted it was for third place, but it netted a lot of ranking points, being in the qualifying year for the Paralympics.”
“It was a good mental victory. Noam is very strong, especially in the upper body. You can get him in trouble and he can still overpower you. With my serve, its not my strength – I just don’t have the power - so I’m trying to hit a good enough serve so he couldn’t go on the offensive, and I did that today.”