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Wagner and two rookies post wins on Paralympics Day 2

Dana Mathewson
September 11, 2016 01:22 PM

By Steve Goldberg, special to USTA.com

Rio de Janeiro – After winning a remarkable six of seven matches on the opening day of the Paralympic tennis schedule, Team USA had a reality check on Day 2, with matches against two top seeds and other higher-ranked players. Still, the Americans went 3-4 on the day, with No. 2 seed David Wagner winning his quad division match against Mitsuteru Moroishi (JAP), 6-2, 6-2, and the two first-time Paralympians on the women's team both moving on to the next round.

While the doubles tandem of Wagner and Nick Taylor have never lost a match in Paralympic play on their way to gold medals in Athens, Beijing and London, coach Dan James respectfully submits that his rookies, 25-year-old Dana Mathewson from San Diego and 22-year-old Shelby Baron of Honolulu, are the buzz of the tournament so far.

"I think that's the story of the Paralympics so far," said James.  "If you would have asked me prior to leaving for Rio if it would be that my two rookies were undefeated, I would have laughed."

In their first singles matches, Mathewson, a doctoral graduate student in audiology at the University of Arizona, topped Louise Hunt (GBR), 6-1, 6-4, while Baron, a junior at the University of Alabama, defeated Marianna Lauro (ITA) by the same score.

In the first two days of tennis here in Rio, each has earned their first two Paralympic victories, no small accomplishment for two athletes who have yet to truly test their games on the major circuit.

"They have more work to do with tough matches coming up but they've proven worthy of being here at the Paralympics," James noted.

As for Wagner, James was matter of fact in saying, "David is taking care of business. He had to play strong and I think he enjoyed that. He' solidified himself in the medal round which is where we want to be."

Both Kaitlyn Verfuerth and Nick Taylor had to face tournament top seeds. Verfuerth lost to Jiske Griffioen (NED), 6-1, 6-1, and Taylor went down to quad No. 1 Dylan Alcott (AUS), 6-2, 6-0.

Also Saturday, Emmy Kaiser lost in three sets to Charlotte Famin (FRA), 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, one of the players she and Baron defeated the night before in doubles. The men's doubles team of Jon Rydberg and Steve Baldwin lost to Stefan Olsson and Dan Wallin (SWE), 6-3, 6-2.

Sunday's play will see Baron/Kaiser against (1) Griffioen/Aniek van Koot (NED), Mathewson/Verfuerth against (2) Marjolein Buis/Diede de Groot (NED), and (1) Taylor/Wagner against Itai Erenlib/Shraga Weinberg (ISR) in doubles.

In singles, it's Baldwin vs. (15) Daniel CaverZaschi (ESP), Mathewson vs. (4) van Koot, Rydberg vs. (4) Nicolas Peifer (FRA) and Baron vs. (6) de Groot.

Except for Taylor and Wagner, who open their chase for a fourth consecutive tennis gold medal, something that only Esther Vergeer (NED) has achieved in women's singles, all other Americans play higher seeds on Sunday.

For the two rookies and their doubles partners, though, there's nothing to lose according to their coach.

"Getting to the round of 16 in singles and to the quarterfinals in doubles, we're definitely playing with house money right now,” James said. “There's absolute freedom to go out there and play your best tennis."