The tandem of Nick Taylor and David Wagner showed why the U.S. quads are the team to beat in Turkey, handing Japan a 3-0 defeat in the BNP Paribas World Team Cup semifinals and setting up a climatic showdown with defending WTC champion Israel on Saturday.
For the second time in as many days, the U.S. celebrated a "double bagel" singles win, with Wagner besting Mitsuteru Moroishi, 6-0, 6-0. On Thursday, women’s team member Kaitlyn Verfuerth turned the trick on Australia’s Luba Josevski.
Overall, in the three matches against Japan, the U.S. quad team dropped only six games to reach the final for the eighth time in the last nine years.
"Israel will be a real challenge," said Team USA coach Dan James, previewing the quad final. "The two teams were well represented on the medal stand in London and this is the first time they will face off since then."
"London" being last summer’s Paralympic Games, where Israel’s Noam Gershony upset Wagner, the world’s No. 1-ranked quad player, in the gold medal singles match, 6-3, 6-1. Wagner would take silver and then earned a gold in doubles with Taylor, who claimed a bronze in singles. For the Israelis, Gershony and partner Shraga Weinberg settled for doubles bronze in London after being defeated by Taylor and Wagner in the semis. The U.S. and Israel are seeded 1-2 in this current WTC, with both teams having lost one match in four ties en route to a seemingly destined faceoff.
"We expect an incredible team across the net, like always," said James, " but our guys are ready."
For all the positives emerging from the quad event, the frustrating slide of the U.S. men’s team continued on Friday as Thailand beat the Americans, 2-1. A singles win by former world No. 1 Stephen Welch provided a small boost, but Thailand’s Suthi Klongrua and Sumrerng Kruamai overpowered Welch and partner Steve Baldwin, 6-4, 7-6(2), to put the U.S. in a must-win position over the weekend after losing three ties to stat WTC play.
After earning a promotion into the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) coveted World Group I in 2011, the U.S. finished seventh at the 2012 WTC in Seoul, avoiding relegation by finishing second in their pool of three teams to start the event. Now, depending on the outcome of their matches against South Africa on Saturday, the U.S. may find itself against a World Group II opponent in Australia or Greece on Sunday with World Group I membership on the line.
"We are fortunate to have the experience and leadership of a former world No. 1 in Stephen Welch, someone who’s seen and been part of all kinds of highs and lows," said James. "He’s staving off panic as the team readies itself for the next two days."