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Doubles partners to do battle at Paralympics

September 5, 2012 12:05 AM
Nick Taylor of the Team USA quad squad must match up in the singles semifinals against good friend and doubles partner David Wagner.
By Steve Goldberg, special to USTA.com

LONDON -- The day after David Wagner and partner Nick Taylor won their doubles semifinal matchup with Israel's Noam Gershony and Shraga Weinberg, they each advanced out of the quarterfinals in the singles bracket.
Their next opponents? Each other.
Selected into the same side of the draw this time, Wagner and Taylor, will battle for the shot at Paralympic gold. Four years ago, they met for the bronze medal in China with Wagner coming out on top
Regardless of who moves to the final, a certainty is that there will be a new gold medalist, after Weinberg upset the Athens and Beijing champion Peter Norfolk, 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 on a packed Court 1.
With British men's team member Gordon Reid facing the tall task of getting past the Dutch men - he plays Maikel Scheffers in a Wednesday quarterfinal - Norfolk was a proven winner and best hope for tennis gold in the home country. Losing a tough second set tiebreaker to the Americans evidently didn't break Weinberg's spirit as he recorded the upset of the tournament so far. Twelve double faults by Norfolk didn't hurt either.
Wagner advanced by taking out the third Israeli in the quad competition, Boaz Kramer, 6-3, 6-0, while Taylor took a longer route, going three sets with Sweden's Anders Hard 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. Hard had eliminated Britain's other favorite son, Andrew Lapthorne, in the first round.
Taylor wasn't surprised. He had seen Hard's flat, powerful strokes before but not i. "He had a great first round where he defeated the number four seed (Lapthorpe) so I knew I was going to be in for a very tough match."
"He's always been a player who goes for a lot and today was no different. He goes for the corners and he swings big."
With the wind at his back, Taylor, a Kansas native who says he's used to a big breeze on a tennis court, said he tried to use the wind to get the ball to kick up and give himself more time, and especially give Anders more difficult balls to swing away at.
Now the only real chance for tennis gold will be the quad doubles final on Wednesday when Norfolk, Lapthorne and an army of British fans go up against Wagner and Taylor.
But there was more than Wagner and Taylor going on for the Americans on a bright sunny day. Bryan Barten, who made the quarterfinals on his Paralympic debut, would see that be his high water mark as Gershony moved the ball from side to side and eliminated the American 6-1, 6-1. 
So it will be an all-American semi on one side and all-Israel on the other. One team will take home at least two medals. The USA is guaranteed at least a silver in the doubles already.
As for the house-divided semifinal, Taylor grins as he tells interviewers of his familiarity with his opponent.
"We've played over 70 times now. It's more times than I can find in wheelchair tennis. There's nobody even close who's played as many matches against each other as we have."


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