November marks the return of one of the biggest events that USTA National Campus has had the privilege to host as the NEC Wheelchair Singles Masters and UNIQLO Wheelchair Doubles Masters will be played from Oct. 31 through Nov. 7 right here at the campus in Lake Nona.
This year’s event returns to the campus for a third time following the 2018 and 2019 editions. It was not held in 2020 as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The year-end championships, which began in 1994 for singles and in 2000 for doubles, features the eight best singles players in the world by ranking as well as eight men’s doubles teams, six women’s doubles teams, and four quad doubles teams. Like its counterpart events on the ATP and WTA tours, the events begin in round-robin format and advance into a knockout tournament to crown their champions. The 2021 edition sees eight quad singles players selected for the field for the first time, bringing the division in line with the men’s and women’s singles events.
The event will feature seven Americans as Bryan Barten, Chris Herman, Dana Mathewson, Casey Ratzlaff, Conner Stroud, Nick Taylor and David Wagner will all compete.
Mathewson and Wagner are the lone Americans who will compete in both singles and doubles, with Mathewson partnering Great Britain’s Lucy Shuker in the doubles event and Wagner teaming up with longtime partner Taylor in the quad doubles event. The two have won a record 11 crowns in the discipline dating back to 2005. Barten will compete alongside Wagner in quad singles, while Herman, Ratzlaff and Stroud will all compete in the men’s doubles. Playing in the Masters for the first time in his career, Ratzlaff will partner Chile’s Alexander Cataldo, while Herman and Stroud reunite at the tournament after debuting at the event as last-minute alternates in 2019.
Six of the eight players who won U.S. Open titles will compete at the tournament, including women’s world No. 1 Diede de Groot, fresh off a historic Golden Slam in New York – the first wheelchair player to ever complete the feat. Australia’s Dylan Alcott, the quad world No. 1, who also won the Golden Slam by winning the singles event at the U.S. Open mere hours after de Groot, will not compete in Orlando. Also sidelined is two-time defending singles champion Joachim Gerard, winner of the event in 2018 and 2019. The champion at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year, the Belgian also missed the U.S. Open after being hospitalized with a health issue during the Tokyo Paralympics.
De Groot and Wagner return as the 2019 singles winners. Also returning to defend their titles from two years ago are men’s doubles champions Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer of France and women’s doubles champs de Groot and Aniek van Koot. Dutch teenager Niels Vink, this year’s U.S. Open runner-up who reached the quad singles final and won the quad doubles title with Aussie Heath Davidson as a 16-year-old two years ago, will partner this year with compatriot Sam Schroder. The two won the gold medal in Tokyo as well as the U.S. Open together and are the quad doubles’ projected top seeds.
For more information about the 2021 NEC Wheelchair Singles Masters and UNIQLO Wheelchair Doubles Masters, visit the USTA website, which will house tournament results, schedules of play, and live-streaming information. The event is free and open to the public daily.