Belgium’s Joachim Gerard was crowned men’s NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters champion after overcoming last year’s winner Shingo Kunieda of Japan in a thrilling final at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in London.
Their second meeting of the season-ending tournament, featuring the top eight players in the world, was eagerly anticipated after Gerard had stunningly ended the Japanese star’s 77-match unbeaten run by beating him in three sets during the group stage.
A repeat performance looked on the cards after the Belgian secured a double break in the opening set of the match, however the top seed fought back to level the contest at 5-5.
It only proved a temporary respite for Kunieda as he was immediately broken with Gerard then able to serve out the first set.
The momentum of the match though had begun to swing into the Japanese player’s favour and he dominated the duration of the second set to force a decider, as he looked to gain revenge on Gerard and defend his title.
Kunieda was able to build a 3-1 lead to appear on course for the title but was left stunned as the tournament’s fourth seed produced a series of excellent shots to win the next five games to record a 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 victory and claim his first NEC Masters title.
Second seed Stephane Houdet came out on top in an all-French bronze medal match with Nicolas Peifer, beating last year’s runner-up 6-2, 6-2.
Women’s top seed Jiske Griffioen claimed her second NEC Masters crown as the 2012 winner brushed aside the challenge of Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock in the final.
The Dutchwoman, the runner-up last year, had beaten Ellerbrock in straight sets in the group phase and a repeat appeared likely when the 30-year-old took the opening set 6-2.
Ellerbrock attempted to respond in the second but after a steady start the German was broken by Griffioen, who then raced through the remaining games to seal a 6-2, 6-2 win.
Last year’s champion Aniek Van Koot produced her best performance of the tournament to come from behind to beat fellow Dutch player Marjolein Buis 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 in the third-place playoff.
Seven-time quad singles champion David Wagner was the overwhelming favourite heading into the final against South Africa’s Lucas Sithole and the American looked to live up to his top set billing by moving into a 5-1 lead in the first set.
An incredible fightback, however, saw Sithole level the scores and eventual force a tie-break, but Wagner eventually prevailed 8-6 to move closer to another title.
The second set followed a similar pattern as Wagner again established an early advantage only to be pegged back by his dogged South African opponent.
Sithole, though, came up short again as the top seed battled through to secure a straight sets 7-6, 6-4 victory to earn his eighth title.
Britain’s Andy Lapthorne claimed third place, courtesy of a 3-6, 6-0, 6-0 win over Israel’s Itay Erenlib.
December 2015: Gerard to face defending champion Kunieda in men's singles final at NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters
December 2015: Double Dutch as top seed to face defending women's champion in NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters semi-finals
December 2015: Women's top seed wins thrilling tie-break to maintain winning start to NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters
December 2015: Reid receives support of Davis Cup winners on opening day of NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters
November 2015: Erenlib to debut at NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters after Alcott withdraws