Two days after toasting his ascension to the top of the wheelchair tennis rankings, Gustavo Fernandez has added cause for celebration.
The Argentine notched his first win as the new world No.1 on Thursday with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over French world No.3 Stephane Houdet in the opening round at Wimbledon.
The 23-year-old secured last year’s French Open title before he bagged his second Grand Slam singles title at this year’s Australian Open. Following the 6-2, 6-3 defeat of British No.1 seed and defending champion Gordon Reid earlier in the day, by Sweden’s Stefan Olsson, Fernandez is definitely the man to beat.
“Yes, it was tough mentally to come here and play this match but I was mentally strong enough to pull it out and I think that’s what made the difference today,” Fernandez said of the added pressure the top ranking brought.
“I’ve been working a lot on my strokes and I know that if I want to be the world No.1 and stay there I need to be mentally strong.”
Next, he takes on Great Britain’s Alfie Hewett, a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 winner over Frenchman Nicolas Peifer. It will be a rematch of the French Open final, in which Fernandez let two match points slip in a 0-6, 7-6(9), 6-2 defeat to the 19-year-old.
This time he is determined not to let the Brit back into the match, as he did on the clay in Paris. “I’m going to try not to, but it’s going to be tough,” Fernandez said. “He’s a great player. He’s going to have his home crowd supporting him so I just have to be ready for that.
“When he starts to hit winners, he’s tough to control. In Roland Garros he put himself into fight mode and he just served me from the court.”
Earlier, Olsson’s upset of Reid was revenge for their clash in last year’s final, when Reid become the first wheelchair men’s singles champion at the All England Club.
Olsson – the former world No.2 who is seeking his first Grand Slam singles title – goes through to the the semi-finals to face Shingo Kunieda of Japan, a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Maikel Scheffers.
Both gentlemen’s and ladies’ wheelchair singles No.1 seeds bowed out in the opening round on Thursday, as Aniek Van Koot pulled off a 6-3, 6-2 upset of countrywoman Jiske Griffioen. Van Koot will face another Dutchwoman for a berth in the final after Diede de Groot defeated Brit Jordanne Whiley 6-2, 7-6(4).
No.2 seed Yui Kamiji ran out a 6-3, 6-1 winner over Britain’s Lucy Shuker. She will face Sabine Ellerbrock for a place in the final. The German ground out a tough 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 victory over Dutchwoman Marjolein Buis.
Source: Dan Imhoff| Wimbledon