2013 Wheelchair Tennis Australian Open to feature host of international stars
Tuesday, 22 January 2013
January 22 - The 2013 Australian Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships get underway in Melbourne tomorrow, with five-time champion Shingo Kunieda of Japan facing defending champion Maikel Scheffers of Holland in the pick of the first round ties.
Two-time Paralympic gold medallist Kunieda, 28, won both the singles and doubles tournament at Melbourne Park for five years in succession between 2007 and 2011 but missed out on the 2012 tournament through injury.
Scheffers took the world number one ranking spot from the Japanese player, which he had previously held for four years, and claimed a win at the French Open in June 2011, beating Kunieda in the semi-final before going on to win at Melbourne just over six months later.
Kunieda and Scheffers are seeded second and third respectively, with world number one, veteran Frenchman Stephane Houdet, seeded first.
The 42-year-old Houdet will take on compatriot Michael Jeremiasz, who won the tournament in 2006, in the first round.
In the women's tournament, the absence of Dutchwoman Esther Vergeer, who has won an incredible 470 consecutive games and has not experienced defeat for a decade, leaves the tournament very much for the taking.
Number one seed Aniek Van Koot, also of Holland, takes on the tenth seed Kgothatso Montjane of South Africa, who becomes the first African player to contest in a wheelchair tennis Grand Slam.
The fourth and fifth seeds will also face each other in the first round, as Jiske Griffioen, another Dutch player, takes on compatriot Marjolein Buis.
British number seven seed Lucy Shuker will be looking to build on her Doubles final appearance at Melbourne in 2010 in the singles, as she faces eighth seed Daniela Di Toro, who will be competing in her hometown.
"Training has been going well this week and I'm really looking forward to getting back on the courts at Melbourne Park as it's always such a special place to play." said two-time Wimbledon runner-up Shuker.
"It's been a couple of years since I've competed at the Australian Open but I feel like I'm in great shape and am ready to take on some of the world's top players,"
In the quad event, last years runner-up David Wagner of the USA will be looking to go one better this time round as he bids to win his second Australian Open.
The tournament is a round-robin event with four competitors, in which the top two players will go through to the final.
The quad tournament is for players that suffer from quadriplegia, and the players are allowed to use electronic-powered wheelchairs and are allowed to hold their racket taped to their hand.
Other competitors are Anders Hard of Sweden, Nick Taylor of the United States and two-time Australian Open doubles champion Andy Lapthorne of Great Britain, who will attempt to reach his first singles final.
"It's good to be back at the Australian Open after having enjoyed so much success here in the past two years." said Lapthorne
"Playing in a round-robin format always makes it a bit different and I'm looking forward to my first match against Nick [Taylor]."
"I haven't lost to him recently so I will go out feeling confident and stick to my game plan,"