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Taylor, Wagner on course for fourth doubles quad gold medal

September 12, 2016 11:39 AM

By Steve Goldberg, special to USTA.com

Rio de Janeiro – As expected but never guaranteed, Nick Taylor and David Wagner will play for their fourth consecutive gold medal in the Paralympic quad doubles.

The top seeds advanced to Tuesday's gold medal match with a 6-4, 6-2 win over the Israeli tandem of Shraga Weinberg and Itai Erenlib in front of a vocal crowd in the evening's final match on Center Court.

If successful, Taylor and Wagner would match the inimitable Esther Vergeer of the Netherlands, who won four straight women's Paralympic titles from 2000 in Sydney to 2012 in London.

In fact, the Americans are the only men ever to win gold medals in the quad doubles since it was added to the Paralympic schedule in 2004.

Taylor (pictured) shrugged off the slow start that saw the Americans down 2-1 in the first three games as a little bit of nerves in their first match after a first round bye.

"But we have a game plan. We know it's the right game plan and we're going to stick to that all the way to the end in every match we play," said Taylor after the match. "We knew it would bring us through."

The Israeli game plan was to throw as many balls at Nick Taylor as possible, but he wasn't surprised.

"That's all right,” he said. “That's what I'm here for."

Using a power chair, Taylor also has to use his feet to toss the ball on serves, a skill that delighted the soccer-mad and clad – the outfit of choice in the Rio Olympic Park is the yellow jersey of the Brazilian national team – local fans and made him a crowd favorite. That is except for the Israeli fans, because far more often than not, Taylor is up for the challenge.

One he got dialed in to the size of Center Court, the Americans cruised.

"You can get lost out there," he noted. "That's a really big court. It's great. It's awesome. It just took a little getting used to."

In the final, the Americans will play the Australian pair of Dylan Alcott and Heath Davidson, who defeated the second-seeded Andy Lapthorne and Jamie Burdekin of Great Britain in the other semifinal. Alcott is the top seed in the quad singles draw and previously won a Paralympic gold medal with the Aussie’s wheelchair basketball team in Beijing.

The younger and incredibly athletic Australians will make achieving a fourth consecutive gold medal a very difficult task.

"We've got a plan and we're going to be ready," said Taylor of the gold medal match to be played on Tuesday. "We're not going to just roll over and let them take it from us. We're here to win."

With the exception of Taylor and Wagner, the remarkable run of the USA tennis team in Rio came to an end on the hard courts of the Olympic Tennis Center on Sunday.

Unlike the Olympic tennis tournament, where big names and seeds were left in the carnage, the Paralympic aces proved their merit, which didn't bode well for upset-minded Americans.

In the men's singles, Steve Baldwin lost to No. 15 Daniel Caverzaschi of Spain, 6-0, 6-3, and Jon Rydberg fell to fourth seed Nicolas Peifer of France, 6-2, 6-2.

In the women's singles second round, the new kids on the block, Dana Mathewson and Shelby Baron, faced off against the experiences Dutch players Aniek van Koot and Diede de Groot. The No. 4 seed van Koot beat Mathewson, 6-3, 6-1, while No.6 de Groot won, 6-4, 6-1, over Baron.

It got tougher in the quarterfinals of the women's doubles, where van Koot and de Groot added two higher-seeded singles players as partners to form the top two teams in that bracket.

Mathewson and Kaitlyn Verfuerth got stronger as the match went on against the second-seeded de Groot and Marjolein Buis (NED) but learned why these players are consistently at the top of the rankings in a 6-2, 6-4 defeat.

Baron and Emmy Kaiser couldn't match their first-round success against the top-seeded pair of van Koot and Jiske Griffioen (NED), falling 6-2, 6-1.