Shuker still targeting Grand Slam glory after Australian Open frustration
The Australian Open may not quite have had the happy ending Lucy Shuker was hoping for but the wheelchair tennis star is still convinced she has what it takes to lift a Grand Slam title sooner rather than later.
At Melbourne Park last week, Shuker was narrowly edged out in a three-set thriller by Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany in the wheelchair women’s singles quarter-finals before she and partner Kgothatso Montjane of South Africa lost to eventual champions Marjolein Buis and Yui Kamiji in the semi-finals of the wheelchair women’s doubles.
The 37-year-old is a five-time Grand Slam finalist – reaching the women’s doubles showpiece at Wimbledon in 2009, 2010 and 2012 and doing likewise at the Australian Open in 2010 and 2013 – but experienced defeat on each occasion.
I’ve beaten numerous girls ranked above me during my career, so there’s no reason why I can’t win a Grand Slam." Lucy Shuker
Those near misses haven’t dented the London 2012 Paralympic Games bronze medallist’s confidence however, and she insists she still has the drive to achieve her goals.
“I haven’t won a Grand Slam – I’ve been in some doubles finals but not quite got over that hurdle,” said Shuker. “I’m a T4 paraplegic, so I’m the most disabled out of all the girls.
“I know that it’s tricky but that said, I’ve beaten numerous girls ranked above me during my career, so there’s no reason why I can’t win a Grand Slam.
“It’s just about being able to perform on the day each time. All I can do is train as hard as I can, make some improvements and hopefully get the results.
“I still love playing tennis and I still have the drive to succeed.”
Shuker entered this year’s Australian Open in good form after winning the Sydney International Super Series women’s doubles title alongside Kamiji earlier this month.
The British-Japanese duo also lifted the crown at last year’s US Open USTA Champs Super Series but they were on opposite sides of the net in Melbourne.
Kamiji and Buis prevailed 6-1, 6-3 over Shuker and Montjane, while the Brit was unfortunate to go down 2-6 7-6(6) 7-6(4) to Ellerbrock in the singles.
“I lost out but I played how I wanted to play and how I need to play going forward in 2018." Lucy Shuker
But like many elite sportspeople, her goals are performance-orientated, rather than result-orientated, and she was more than content with the displays she put in.
“I’ve been out in Australia for three weeks, partnered Yui in the Sydney Super Series and managed to win the title there, beating the top seeds in the final,” added Shuker. “That was a good win.
“I beat the no.4 in the world in singles at the Melbourne Open and then I lost out to Sabine in the Australian Open but it was a really close match.
“Yes, it wasn’t the result I wanted but in terms of the performance, I played some really good tennis and fought all the way to the end.
“I lost out but I played how I wanted to play and how I need to play going forward in 2018.
“I fly back to the UK on Tuesday and then it’s straight back into training. I’ll be competing up in Bolton for an international tournament and then we fly out to America in March for two big tournaments.
“As the year unfolds I’ll probably play in about 20 or 25 tournaments – plenty to keep me busy!”
Other Brits just miss out
Shuker’s results at the Australian Open mirrored those of many of her compatriots as GB’s wheelchair tennis stars narrowly failed to leave Melbourne with silverware.
Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett lost in the men’s wheelchair doubles final to French duo Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer – the men they beat to win Wimbledon and the US Open in 2017.
Andy Lapthorne was battling a hand and a wrist injury in the build-up to the first Grand Slam of the year and although he was forced to withdraw from the wheelchair quad singles after two of his three round robin matches, he did play in the final of the wheelchair quad doubles with USA’s David Wagner but they lost to Australian pair Dylan Alcott and Heath Davidson.