Double Dutch delight for De Groot

  • Alex Sharp

A trophy-laden day of wheelchair action at Melbourne Park on Saturday witnessed a trio of historic titles alongside home fan favourite Dylan Alcott lifting his fifth quad Australian Open singles trophy.

Dutchwoman Diede De Groot clinched a memorable double, while Gustavo Fernandez regained the men’s crown.

Argentina’s Fernandez, the 2017 winner, edged out the in-form Stefan Olsson 7-5 6-3 to gain revenge for last year’s Wimbledon final defeat by the Swede.

“It’s very, very good. It was really, really tough. I lost four Grand Slam finals. It was hard moments for me. I had to work a lot, in a lot of matters, both technically and mentally. So it's really, really good to be back winning a Grand Slam,” reflected 25-year-old Fernandez, who has hired mental coach Santiago Sanchez to help control his emotions in battle.

“I think I enjoyed more this one (than 2017). Every Grand Slam win, it's special. But this one, it was really tough. I work a lot mentally because after I get to the first in the world, in 2017, a lot of things happened in myself, and I have to grow in a lot of matters mentally.

“When you are in the court, you don't need to get emotional, you need to get smart. I think I did a good job, he did a great job. I think it works. It pays off.”

Olsson struck a piercing forehand cross-court winner to break in the opening game, but after that Fernandez found his groove and dictated play with superb shot making.

The second seed served out the straight sets triumph to level his absorbing head-to-head with Olsson at 10 victories each.

“I think every time in the last three, four years, our matches are even tougher each time,” said Hernandez. “That's good. I mean, I love to compete. I love the competition.

MORE: Infosys MatchBeats: See how the men’s wheelchair singles match unfolded

“When you get the players that like to play against you and make you push harder, that's something great. I think we both have that, and we enjoy doing it.”

Meanwhile, De Groot retained her singles title in emphatic fashion before partnering compatriot Aniek Van Koot to triumph together. 

De Groot dismissed second seed Yui Kamiji 6-0 6-2 in just 54 minutes to hold the trophy aloft without dropping a set this week.

“I think the last few weeks I have been training on some things, and I had to believe in it,” said the 22-year-old. “Last week we played against each other, and it was a third-set tiebreak, and it was really tough mentally, because I had some match points but I didn't use them.

“And then now I just really wanted to just play well and enjoy it, and that's what I did.” 

Doubles partner Van Koot hailed her game: “I saw the match, as well. I think for Yui, it was obvious that there was nothing that she could get today for free.”

It was as emphatic as it sounds, leaving a delighted De Groot reflecting on a second title in Melbourne. She said: “I really enjoy playing here, of course I’m happy I played so well today. Winning another title is very special for me, it means so much.”

The Dutch duo prevailed 5-7 7-6(4) 10-8 in an epic clash with second seeds Marjolein Buis with Sabine Ellerbrock on Court 8.

“I think we had a plan beforehand, and in the end, in the tiebreak, I think we managed to tell each other, ‘stick to the plan,’ to not do something different,” added Van Koot. “It was really tight. It could have gone both ways, I'm just really happy with it.”

De Groot completed her ‘Grand Slam’ of doubles titles, while Van Koot clinched her fourth Australian Open doubles trophy.

Yui Kamiji

“It always means a lot to compete at the Australian Open. And to be able to win a Grand Slam together, together with Diede, we are going to play more doubles together this year,” said Van Koot, inspired by her partner’s exploits earlier on Saturday. “It's terrific to win it and to end it on a winning streak.

“Obviously Diede won her singles today, but I was, like, ‘Oh, I really want to play well, as well’. Obviously she was already on a high. I wanted to join her in that feeling.”

MORE: Infosys MatchBeats: See how the women’s wheelchair singles match unfolded

Crowds packed out the stands at Melbourne Park, and Van Koot feels the locals really embrace wheelchair tennis.

“The Australian Open is one of my favourites, the people really like wheelchair tennis, they want us to do well, to be given the same opportunities,” stated the 28-year-old. “Even though it is around 30 hours travel from home, we really feel at home here.”