The third "amigo" of the Team USA quad squad, Bryan Barten won his first career Paralympic match in straight sets.
© Steve Goldberg
By Steve Goldberg, special to USTA.com
LONDON -- Team USA's quad squad went three-for-three on a cool and overcast Sunday on the hardcourts of Eton Manor, rescuing the day that saw the men's singles and doubles teams bow out.
Top seed David Wagner claimed a quick first set 6-2 against Lucas Sithole but let off the gas enough to let the South African stretch the second to 12 games, which Wagner won 7-5 to close out his first match of the 2012 Paralympic Games.
"It feels like you've been here forever," said Wagner, the Beijing bronze medalist in quad singles. "It also feels like the anticipation of getting here has been forever. I moved to the (United States Olympic Committee) training center in Chula Vista (Calif.) and I've been living there full time for two years... it's like everything you eat, sleep, breathe and live is Olympics, Paralympics, Olympics, Paralympics."
Wagner let loose with an exaggerated sigh of relief at the realization that all the work he's put in has come to the point of payoff.
He said that he felt good early and that showed in how he moved Sithole around the court and didn't give the South African the chance to hit anything dangerous. Wagner admits though that the nerves did appear. "At the beginning of the second set, it was like 'Whoa', remember where you are."
But Wagner was quick to credit Sithole and not just his nerves for the competitive second set. "You're not going to make the Paralympics if you're not a good player. You know that coming in, that everybody you play is solid and they are training just as hard cause they want to win too."
Nick Taylor, who will partner with Wagner in doubles, had a similar opener against Japan's Shota Kawano, winning 6-1, 7-5.
"To finally get a match under my belt and get a win really feels good," added Taylor. "We've been here nine or ten days now. The horses are finally out of the gate."
While both Wagner and Taylor were expected to move on, the third "amigo" of the Quad squad, Bryan Barten, was playing first ever Paralympic match versus Marco Innocenti of Italy. Winning in a convincing 6-3, 6-4 sweep, Barten feels that he's got a cake that's all icing from this point on.
"It was amazing," said Barten, who had worn "USA" on his chest in World Team Cup competition but admitted that this was so much bigger. "I had butterflies in my stomach but I had such a good game plan and my coaches put some really good information in my head before the match about how to play against that particular opponent. It really helped me execute today."
In the men's singles, Jon Rydberg got out of the gate early building a 3-0 lead on #7 seed Michael Jeremiasz in their second round match. The Frenchman showed his pedigree though, coming back to tie the match at 4-4 and going ahead 6-5. Rydberg broke back to force a tiebreaker but could not keep up the pressure and lost 6-8.
"I was feeling pretty smooth in warm-ups and I knew if I put the ball in the place where I needed to put it, things would turn out good," said Rydberg. "I just couldn't hold the multiple leads I got in the first set."
Jeremiasz found his groove and won four straight before Rydberg claimed a consolation game in a 6-1 second set.
Welch went up against the 11 seed, Joachim Gerard of Belgium and got to 6-5 before losing the first set in a tiebreaker. Gerard would hit 52 winners to 17 for Welch and dispatched the Texan 6-2 in the second to close out the match.
In doubles, Steve Baldwin and Noah Yablong had the misfortune of drawing Beijing silver medalists Stefan Olsson and Peter Vikstrom who made short work of the Americans 6-0, 6-1.
Welch and Rydberg ended the day on Centre Court, the first appearance by the American team in the temporary stadium that will live on as a field hockey pitch after the games are done. It looked promising as they rolled to a 6-1 first set win but it didn't take as they lost the next two, 3-6 and 6-7 to the Brazilian duo of Mauricio Pomme and Carlos Santos.
Emmy Kaiser will be the next American on Centre Court when she goes up against the pride of Great Britain, Lucy Shuker, in the first match on Monday.
"Any time you play on a big show court you can feed off the crowd," said Wagner. "I've got 14 of my closest friends and family here so I'm able to feed off of them. The British players have the whole country behind them. Any time you're in that environment you can feed off the crowd a little bit. It gives you an opportunity to showcase what you've been training for."