By Herman R. Gibbs, special to USTA.com
Nick Taylor saw the United States off to a winning start at the 2011 ITF Wheelchair Tennis World Team Cup in Pretoria, South Africa, on Monday.
The U.S. - Israel quads, Group A clash, was the curtain-raiser at the University of Pretoria venue and the world No. 4 Taylor took to the high altitude conditions like a fish to water as he stroked his way to a 6-3, 6-3 win over Noam Gershony.
Afterwards, Taylor made no secret of the fact that he used the conditions to his advantage with his deep returns which often bounced quite high and uncomfortably for his opponent.
"That was the general idea, to hit it deep and high," said Taylor. "It was just a matter of being consistent."
Both players battled in first-set service games. Taylor, however, managed to claim three of his five but he broke Gershony thrice to wrap up the set 6-3. And it was the same story in the second set , as he took it handily 6-3 to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the tie.
America's world No 1 David Wagner imposed himself on his match against Israel's Shraga Weinberg before he ran out an emphatic 6-4, 6-0 winner.
Wagner blitzed his way through the second set, which he took a mere 15 minutes to complete, and his overall performance was certainly the most decisive of the quad competition on the opening day of match play.
Later in the day, Wagner and Taylor joined forces to rule the doubles event, in which they encountered stiffer collective opposition. As a result, the Israeli pair kept them out on the court for just over two hours but the American duo Wagner and Taylor defeated Boaz Kramer and Gershony 6-2, 6-4.
Kaitlyn Verfuerth started off the U.S. campaign in the Women's World Group in fine style with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Chile's Francisca Mardones. Verfuerth's layoff from World Team Cup the past two years was evident as she battled with consistency lapses and lack of rhythm at various stages. However, despite service game setbacks midway through each of the two sets, Verfuerth gathered her composure to close out strongly.
Next up for the unseeded U.S. side was Emmy Kaiser who started off like a house on fire in her match against Chile's Maria Antonieta Ortiz. Kaiser snatched the first set 6-0 and then was forced to work harder in the next but she closed out the match in under an hour for a 6-0, 6-4 win.
In the women's doubles, Kaiser and Verfuerth proved too strong for the Mardones/Ortiz pairing and produced a comfortable 6-1, 6-2 victory. The doubles victory capped off a 3-0 sweep of the sixth seeded Chilean women.
The fourth-seeded U.S. juniors suffered an early setback when their tie against hosts and unseeded South Africa got under way. In the opening match, South Africa's Donald Ramphadi staged a fine comeback to defeat Ryan Nelson 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in a closely-fought clash.
However, Shelby Baron got the U.S.'s campaign back on track when she defeated Mabel Mankgele 6-2, 6-1.
With the tie reduced to a stalemate after the singles matches, the doubles outcome was important to advance to the top of the Group A standings. However, the U.S. pairing of Nelson and Baron proved too strong for the South African duo of Thabang Gift Lekganyane and Donald Ramphadi with a convincing display of team cohesion as they earned a 6-1, 6-2 victory for a 2-1 tie triumph as night fell on Pretoria.
Women World Group 1st Round:
USA defeated Chile (5), 3-0
Kaitlyn Verfuerth (USA) d. Francisca Mardones (CHI) 7-5, 6-4
Emmy Kaiser (USA) d. M. Antonieta Ortiz (CHI) 6-0, 6-4
Kaitlyn Verfuerth/ Emmy Kaiser (USA) d. Francisca Mardones/M. Antonieta Ortiz (CHI) 6-1, 6-2
Quad Pool A:
USA (1) defeated Israel (3), 3-0
Nick Taylor (USA) d. Noam Gershony (ISR) 6-3, 6-3
David Wagner (USA) d. Shraga Weinberg (ISR) 6-4, 6-0
Nick Taylor/David Wagner (USA) d. Noam Gershony/Shraga Weinberg (ISR) 6-2, 6-4
Junior Pool A:
USA (4) defeated South Africa, 2-1
Gift Thabang Lekhanyane (RSA) d. Ryan Nelson (USA) 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
Shelby Baron (USA) d. Donald Ramphadi (RSA) 6-2, 6-1
Shelby Baron/Ryan Nelson (USA) d. Gift Thabang Lekhanyane/Donald Ramphadi (RSA) 6-1, 6-2
Tuesday’s World Team Cup Schedule-Team USA
Men-USA vs. Morocco
Quad-USA vs. Italy
Juniors-USA vs. Spain