An impressive summer for Ruddington’s James Shaw has got even better this week, with the 21-year-old wheelchair tennis player breaking into the top 20 in the quad singles world rankings for the first time after finishing runner-up at the Austrian Open, where he also won the quad doubles title.
Shaw won his second international doubles title partnering American Greg Hasterok at the ITF 2 Series event in Gross Siegharts over the weekend, the duo surviving a deciding match tie-break in their last round-robin match to finish unbeaten with three wins in three matches.
But Shaw’s singles performance provided even more of a boost for the Nottinghamshire player, who opened his campaign with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Marcus Laudan to reach the semi-finals.
A week after losing a third and final set lead against former world No. 5 Hasterok at the Trofeo della Mole in Turin, Shaw turned the tables on the second seed in Austria to earn a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 after being a set and 4-1 down. Third seed Shaw ultimately finished runner-up to current world No. 5 Erenlib as the top seed took the final 6-1, 6-2, but that hasn’t dampened his spirits.
“In Austria last year I lost to Marcus and Greg in straight sets, so to get Marcus in my opening match this time, it gave me the chance to see how far I’d come and it was a pleasant surprise,” said Shaw, who has subsequently reached his career best singles ranking at No.19 this week.
“After that and after going to three sets with Greg last week, having been 3-0 up in the decider in Italy, I knew I could do it. It was just a case of getting the job done and I ensured I put myself in the position to make more balls and put the pressure back on him. To beat a top 20 player like that was really satisfying.”
Shaw began 2016 world ranked No. 30 and has improved his ranking some 19 places since the start of April after a string of gains at tournaments across Europe. Following back-to-back losses to fellow Brit Richard Green in Poland and the Czech Republic in early June, Shaw came out to beat Green and remain undefeated in his other matches at the Wroclaw Cup on his return to Poland at the end of June.
That success brought Shaw his first ITF 2 singles title and earnt him his first world top 25 ranking and he went into last month’s British Open in Nottingham, where he reached the final of the quad consolation singles, with what was then a career best ranking of No. 24.
With Bingham’s David Phillipson just over three weeks out from representing Great Britain at his third Paralympics, Shaw has ambitions for Tokyo in four years’ time after joining Phillipson on the Tennis Foundation’s Wheelchair Tennis World Class Programme towards the end of 2014. He is already ahead of one of the targets he and his coach in Loughborough set for 2016 and Shaw is in little doubt what the contributory factors have been.
“I was aiming to make the top 25 this year and to now be already top 20 is very encouraging. I’ve been training hard with my coach Martyn Whait in Loughborough and will continue to train hard to try and maintain my ranking now,” added Shaw. “I’ve got great support from the Tennis Foundation and everyone behind me, but I’m particularly grateful to the Tennis Foundation for enabling me to benefit from sessions with my sports psychologist Karl and the mental side of my game has helped me enormously to get to where I am now.”