British Columbia’s own Tomas Bourassa will compete for the men’s title at the young age of 17 following an exciting day of semifinal action at the Birmingham National Wheelchair Tennis Championships in Vancouver.
Bourassa, who is competing in just his second national championships, ousted No. 2 seed Jean-Paul Melo in a back-and-forth battle lasting three hours and two minutes at the UBC Tennis Centre. After letting a 6-1 lead in the third-set tiebreaker slip away, Bourassa was still able to pull off arguably the biggest win of his young career by a final score of 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(8).
“That’s probably the toughest match I’ve ever played,” Bourassa said. “It’s exciting to win such a big match against a top player. I’m still just a 17-year-old kid who plays tennis. It’s neat to know that I can play at that level.”
Bourassa, who represents the next generation in wheelchair tennis with a junior world ranking of No. 17, will now take on the current star of Canadian wheelchair tennis – top seed Philippe Bedard. The three-time defending champion and two-time Paralympian eased into the final thanks to a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Jean-Francois Sylvestre.
It will be Rob Shaw versus Sarah Hunter for the championship in the quad division. World No. 24 Shaw had no trouble advancing past Mitch McIntyre 6-0, 6-0 to reach the final, while Hunter overcame a comeback attempt from last year’s runner-up Gary Luker to move on. Hunter, a former world No. 2 who has been sidelined with a back injury much of the past few seasons, led 5-1 in the second set before Luker upped his game to make things interesting. The score ultimately was 6-4, 7-6(7).
“It’s always an honour and it’s always a great feeling to be a national champion,” Hunter said at the prospect of her 12th Canadian crown. “But for me, now I feel like I’m more about the nucleus of our quad team, seeing us all hitting the ball well and enjoying ourselves. For me, that seems to be more important. Am I going to give the match away? Absolutely not. Am I going to play my best and do I want to win? 100 per cent. But I’m not as wrapped up in this whole idea of a title.”
Shaw will now aim to clinch his second straight trophy. It will be the second time he and Hunter have faced off this week, with the top seed defeating Hunter in round-robin play on Thursday.
“It would be nice to win another title,” Shaw said. “If Sarah plays well, it’s going to be tough to beat her. And if I play well, it’s going to be tough for her to beat me. It’s just going for my shots when I have them, not being tentative out there and just doing what I’ve been doing. Hopefully I can keep on playing like I have this tournament and if I do that I think I have a pretty good chance.”
After a second-place finish in round-robin action, Maude Jacques showed that her level of play was worthy of the final following a 6-1, 6-3 triumph over Kirsten Sharp in the semifinals. Winning her maiden national title last year, she will now be aiming for another against Yuka Chokyu.
“I’m really happy and I thought it was a great match today,” Jacques said. “I’m confident going into tomorrow. My play has definitely improved over the weekend and that’s the match I wanted to play heading into the final. I like the format this year, with the pool play, we kind of get a second chance. I finished second in my pool and tomorrow I get to go for first place.”
For her part, Chokyu was a 6-1, 6-0 winner over Tara Llanes. A former world No. 6, Chokyu has lost a mere four games through four matches this week.
For the complete updated draws and schedule of play, please click here. The Birmingham National Wheelchair Tennis Championships, one of the biggest and most important tournaments held in Canada each year, will conclude Sunday at the UBC Tennis Centre in Vancouver, with the quad final kicking off play at 8:30 a.m. Admission is free for all to come and watch some high-quality wheelchair tennis.