Since its inception in 1994, the Wheelchair Masters has become one of the big events on the tennis calendar. This year it takes place in London for the second consecutive year. Anyone who’s never seen a game of wheelchair tennis game played before should take the chance. It’s just as good as any game of tennis out there. In fact, I’d argue that’s it’s even more thrilling than ordinary tennis. It’s a high-intensity game in which anything can happen.
The players are selected based on their rankings after the US Open is played. Eight men and eight women are invited to take part in the singles tournament. This means that the people who arrive to play at the Wheelchair Masters will be the best sixteen players in the world. The games are played on a round robin basis. This means that every competitor will play every other competitor in the tournament. When there is a relatively small number of players, this is the fairest way to play the games.
This year’s top male players are Shingo Kunieda, Stephane Houdet, Nicolas Peifer, Joachim Gerard. The other competitors are Gordon Reid, Gustavo Fernandez, Maikel Scheffers and Takashi Sanada. Shingo Kunieda has won the competition for the last three years. This will mark him out as the one to watch this year. The fact that he’s won the trophy for the past three years also puts pressure on him to do the same again. The last male competitor other than Kunieda to win the tournament was Stephane Houdet.
British hopes will be pinned on Gordon Reid, the only British competitor playing in the male round. He’s ranked 5th at the moment, so he’s doing well. Although, he’s not a favourite to win the Wheelchair Masters. That won’t stop the home crowd cheering him on to victory though. It will be his aim to surpass his career best ranking of 3rd, which he achieved in 2013. In singles games this year, Reid has won 27 of the games played and lost 10 of them. His career record is 316 victories to 124 losses.
The top four women competing in the Masters this year are Jiske Griffioen, Aniek van Koot, Yui Kamiji, Jordanne Whiley. The other four are Sabine Ellerbrock, Marjolein Buis, Lucy Shuker and Kgothatso Montjane. It’s an interesting time for women’s wheelchair tennis. For a long time, the game was dominated by Esther Vergeer. She was the best player in the game up until her retirement in 2013. Every year between 1998 and 2011 she won the Masters. That’s an incredible fourteen titles to her name. But now that she’s retired, the field is more open. Last year, the title went to Aniek van Koot. And she’ll be looking to repeat her success this time.
There are two women in the running for the title this year. They are Jordanne Whiley and Lucy Shuker. Whiley is ranked fourth, and Shuker seventh. There are three Dutch women in the competition. An interesting fact is that only once in the competition’s history has someone from outside of Holland won the tournament. So, keep your eye on Jiske Griffioen, Aniek van Koot and Marjolein Buis.