Casey Ratzlaff wins in
Victoria Chiesa | August 27, 2021
Casey Ratzlaff might've been nervous as he entered the court for his Paralympic debut, but he hardly showed it to lead Team USA's effort in the opening round of the Paralympics on Friday.
The 22-year-old from Wichita, Kansas scored a 6-2, 7-5 victory over France's Frederic Cattaneo to reach the second round in an upset by ranking: Ratzlaff checked in as world No. 23, while the 42-year-old Cattaneo is the world No. 21, having previously reached a career-high ranking of world No. 9 back in 2011. The American broke serve eight times and hit 29 winners in the 1 hour, 45-minute victory, and hung on admirably after the contest tightened: he'd opened up a 6-2, 5-1 lead, and had his first match point at 5-2 in the second set.
"It was really big for me to go out there and step up and get that win when I was pretty, pretty anxious and nervous getting out there," Ratzlaff said. ADVERTISEMENT "The Paralympics, my debut, it's a big stage. It was a nervous win, to be sure. But I'm very proud of myself that I was able to go out there and perform and execute and get it done."
The opening day of play was affected by extreme heat: scheduled to start at 11 a.m. local time, matches were pushed back first until 12.30 p.m., then 3 p.m. and, finally, got underway at 5 p.m. Play continued uninterrupted on the center court, which has a retractable roof.
Ratzlaff's fellow first-time Paralympian, 21-year-old Conner Stroud, couldn't come out with a victory, but competed well in a 6-4, 6-3 setback against Maikel Scheffers of the Netherlands. The veteran former world No. 1, 38, who's now ranked No. 15, certainly had the advantage in experience over the rookie Stroud: nonetheless, the youngster battled back from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in each set before falling.
"The match was really good for how I played and left it all out on the court," Stroud said. "It wasn't the result I was hoping for, but the last time I played him, I lost 0-and-1, and today, I lost 4-and-3 and it was a lot closer. To know that I'm making the progress and seeing it on the court today, tt was really good."
The USA's quad and women's doubles teams also fell at the first hurdle, with Bryan Barten and David Wagner losing in the quarterfinals to No. 2 seeds Sam Schroder and Niels Vink of the Netherlands, 6-1, 6-2, and Shelby Baron and Dana Mathewson falling to China's Wang Ziying and Zhu Zhenzhen, 6-1, 6-0.
"We came up against a really strong team. The two Dutch guys we played are extremely strong," Wagner said. "I don't think we played even anywhere close to our standard of play and we just weren't there today. They played really well and they had a game plan and they stuck to it. It seemed like every time we changed our strategy, it maybe gave us a couple of points, but they adjusted way quicker and earlier and were able to combat what we were trying to do."
Play will continue with more first-round singles and doubles action on Saturday, while Ratzlaff takes on Belgian Joachim Gerard, who's won two Grand Slams in 2021.
Photo courtesy of the International Tennis Federation.