Wagner starts title defense
with win at Singles Masters
Victoria Chiesa | October 31, 2021
Two years after he last raised the trophy as champion at the USTA National Campus, David Wagner returned to play at the NEC Wheelchair Singles Masters for a 17th time—and it was like he never left.
The 47-year-old Wagner started his unconventional title defense at the year-end tournament—which was canceled in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic—with a 6-2, 6-1 win over fellow American Bryan Barten in round-robin play. Playing for the 38th time in a head-to-head that dates back to 2002, Wagner scored a 37th win against his compatriot to begin his bid for a 12th title at the event.
"Whenever you come back as a champion to try and defend and try and defens those points, that pressure is on you," Wagner said. "I'm used to it and I've done it a couple of times before, but I'm ready for it and to give my best out there this week and see what happens."ADVERTISEMENT
The Top 8 singles players in the men's, women's and quad divisions qualify for the tournament, and three Americans are participating in the singles event. In addition to Wagner and Barten, who, at world No. 8, qualified for the first time in his career, Dana Mathewson is competing in the women's event. However, in her first match on Sunday, the U.S. No. 1 came up just short in her upset effort against world No. 1 Diede de Groot of the Netherlands. In her 10th career match against de Groot, world No. 8 Mathewson led by a break in the final set but couldn't hold on for a first-ever victory against her, and de Groot scored a 16th straight win, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, in her return to U.S. soil weeks after completing a historic Golden Slam at the US Open.
"I think I just came out and I was swinging and that's something that I've been really working on with mental skills coaches, just being brave and going out there and playing the tennis that I know I can play," Mathewson said. "I'm really happy that doing that was good enough to to beat her, in a set at least. I surprised myself, I think I surprised Diede, I think I surprised a lot of people, but it was a good confidence-booster for me."
Singles play continues in Orlando on Monday while the UNIQLO Doubles Masters competition also begins. In addition to his second singles match against No. 1 seed Sam Schroder of the Netherlands, Wagner partners Nick Taylor against No. 1 seeds Schroder and Niels Vink in their first doubles match. Barten will also play against Ymanitu Silva in his second singles match, while all three Americans in the men's doubles field (Chris Herman, Conner Stroud and Casey Ratzlaff) will play, too.
Herman and Stroud face a tough test against top seeds Alfie Hewett and Gordon Ried of Great Britain, winners of a calendar Grand Slam in 2021 and the last eight Grand Slams in all, while Ratzlaff and his Chilean partner Alexander Cataldo take on Tom Egberink and Mikael Scheffers of the Netherlands.
The NEC Wheelchair Singles Masters and UNIQLO Wheelchair Doubles Masters runs from Oct. 31 to Nov. 7 at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla. For more information on the event, visit the tournament hub here.
Photo: David Wagner in action during the NEC Wheelchair Singles Masters at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla. Photo credit: Gary Pasqualicchio/USTA.