David Wagner will be gunning for gold against Israel's Noam Gershony.
© Steve Goldberg
By Steve Goldberg, special to USTA.com
LONDON -- There's no one who wishes success for Nick Taylor more than his doubles partner David Wagner. The only time that doesn't apply is when they are playing each other -- something that happens quite a bit, as both are among the elite of the quad tennis circuit. The same understanding that works so well for them on the same side of the court is a vulnerable point for Taylor when the net stands between them as it was today in a 6-2-6-1 loss.
"Unfortunately for my sake, he knows every weakness I got and he knows how to exploit them extremely well," said Taylor, after the two completed the first of two semifinal matches at the Eton Manor tennis center that anchors the north end of London's Olympic Park. Pausing briefly, he adds, "And he has the talent to do it obviously, and speed and the speed and the physical ability. There's not a lot I change. I thought I played about as good as I've played against him in the last couple of years today."
Taylor noted that Wagner served extremely well.
"For me to have that many aces on him, that doesn't generally happen. I fought as hard as I could; there's just not a whole lot that I can do about it."
Taylor adds that there's not a lot that he can do to mix up or disguise his game. And no one knows that better than his friend and foe, Wagner who is currently the world's number one in quad tennis singles. "At specific times (I do the things I do) for a reason, cause it's all I can do, and he knows that."
What does he know that might help? "I know how important that gold medal match is for him, and if he gets a little nervous, then maybe I can bite into it and make it close, keep it interesting."
As friends and competitors, no quarter is asked and none given. "I want to beat him. I'm going to try as hard as I can but it's going to be extremely hard."
"It is hard," Wagner agreed. "We're like brothers. You've got to separate that. It's hard at first but then the competitive juices start flowing and we want to be the best we can for each other because we want to prepare each other for whoever the next round is."
The next round for Taylor will be Israel's Shraga Weinberg, the conqueror of the two-time defending gold medalist and home favorite, Peter Norfolk. Yet none of the verve shown by Weinberg in that match was evident in his game against countryman Noam Gershony, with whom he won the bronze medal in doubles the day prior. Even though he had won five of their seven meetings, he had nothing -- literally -- losing 6-0, 6-0.
That means Gershony in his first Paralympic Games will face Wagner who is going for his first singles gold. He is assured of improving his Beijing finish which was bronze, which coincidentally he won over Taylor. Beating his partner once more to get his golden opportunity is, in his words, "a bittersweet thing because we're guaranteed a medal for the U.S. no matter what and now someone will play for another medal."