Wheelchair wrap: Women’s top seed denied defence

  • Dan Imhoff

World No.1 Diede de Groot’s bid for a third straight Australian Open wheelchair singles title is over after a surprise quarterfinal defeat to Grand Slam debutante Zhenzhen Zhu on Wednesday.

MORE: All the results from Day 10

The 6-7(3) 6-3 7-5 result was the seven-time major singles champion’s earliest at Melbourne Park since 2017.

Zhu – having already made history as the first Chinese wheelchair tennis player to contest a Grand Slam – looked as though the biggest win of her career was slipping from her grasp deep in the deciding set.

With a double break in hand, the 30-year-old faltered on her first attempt at serving out her biggest win.

De Groot saved two match points on serve at 3-5, and her big-match experience shone as she fought off four more on the Chinese player’s serve to level at 5-all.

But that was where the Dutchwoman’s fightback ended.

Match points seven and eight passed by Zhu before she finally secured the win on a de Groot backhand error after two hours and 26 minutes.

“Yes I think so, it would be my best game so far and also my best form in this tournament,” Zhu said via a translator. “On the last stop of the tour I played the No.2 player in the world [Yui Kamiji]. Also played very well but didn’t win the match … So this match I can say I learned some experiences from that match

“Today’s match I took some leads in the second and third sets and finally I win the match.

“It can be a breakthrough for my career because even though I’ve played some big games against some top players I can come down, especially when I took the lead and finally I can transfer the lead to the victory.”

Zhu will meet another Dutchwoman, Aniek van Koot, the player who last year denied De Groot a calendar-year Grand Slam in the Wimbledon final.

On Wednesday, van Koot – the 2013 Australian Open champion – edged out countrywoman Marjolein Buis 7-6(7) 6-4.

Van Koot advanced to the semifinals in straight sets

Japanese second seed Kamiji – a winner at Melbourne Park in 2017 – continued her unbeaten start to the season with her third straight victory of 2020 over British player Jordanne Whiley, 6-2 7-6(5).

Kamiji will face Kgothatso Montjane for a place in the final after the South African’s 6-0 6-1 win over her doubles partner and 2014 Australian Open champion, Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany.

In the men’s wheelchair singles quarterfinals, Japanese top seed Shingo Kunieda advanced 6-4 6-4 over 29-year-old Frenchman Nicolas Peifer to set a semifinal clash with Brit Alfie Hewett. The 22-year-old Hewett overcame Frenchman Stephane Houdet, a player 27 years his senior, 6-3 6-4.

In a good day for the Brits, Gordon Reid brought No.2 seed Gustavo Fernandez’s Australian Open title defence to an end. Reid prevailed 6-3 6-7(3) 6-2 and will meet Belgian Joachim Gerard, an earlier winner over Australian wildcard Ben Weekes 6-0 6-2.

In third-round quad wheelchair singles action, top seed and three-time champion Dylan Alcott dominated compatriot Heath Davidson 6-2 6-0.

Second-seeded Brit Andy Lapthorne joined Alcott on the winner’s list with a 6-3 7-6(6) victory over former champion David Wagner of the US.