Nick Taylor (left) and David Wagner won their sixth overall U.S. Open doubles title Sunday.
NEW YORK -- With newly earned U.S. Open hardware to be placed carefully into their trophy cabinets, Paralympic wheelchair tennis champions Nick Taylor and David Wagner didn’t hesitate to look ahead to the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Paralympic Games.
“It’s absolutely the focal point,” said Wagner, 34, of the pending Games after he and Taylor won the wheelchair quad doubles title in New York. “We want to repeat in doubles. For the first six months after London, we took our time to re-energize and made the commitment that we were going to go for Rio.”
Taylor and Wagner defeated Andrew Lapthorne of Great Britain and Lucas Sithole of South Africa, 6-3, 7-5, for the quad doubles title this past week at the U.S. Open.
In Athens, Beijing and London, Taylor, who is from Wichita, Kansas, and Wagner, who lives in Chula Vista, California, left with Paralympic gold medals in the doubles competition, while Taylor claimed a bronze medal in quad singles in 2012 and Wagner earned two silver medals (2004, 2012) and a bronze medal (2008) in singles.
In addition to the quad doubles title at the U.S. Open, Wagner was second in quad singles, losing to Lapthorne, 7-5, 6-2, in a match Wagner felt he should have won.
Taylor and Wagner have played each other an estimated 78 times, just shy of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova’s 80-match head-to-head mark, an Open Era record in the sport. They know one another’s games inside and out, which doesn’t much help Taylor on the singles court (Wagner won their round-robin meeting in New York), but makes them a hard-to-beat doubles pair.
“We have hundreds of wins together on the doubles court,” the 40-year-old Wagner said. “Nick and I have played together for so long. We just know each other so well. Nick’s great in the back of the court keeping the ball deep and high and heavy. It allows me to come forward to sneak around and stick some volleys that they aren’t expecting. Our games complement each other so well.”
Their U.S. Open crown in quad doubles was their third in a row and sixth overall. The duo will now a break in the fall before restarting their respective training for world championship events, which include the Wheelchair Doubles Masters (Mission Viejo, California, Nov. 5-9) and Wheelchair Tennis Masters (in singles) (London, Nov. 26-30).
Taylor and Wagner’s official Road to Rio gets underway next year. But as their eyes are solely focused on what’s to come, both players say the sport has grown leaps and bounds since they made their Paralympic debut with the introduction of quad events in Athens.
“I think the sport of wheelchair tennis has evolved a lot,” Wagner said. “The advances in technology of the chairs have helped the sport move forward. It’s not easy by any means, but it’s easier to maneuver our chairs than it was 15 or 20 years ago.”
“I would beat myself, 6-1, 6-1, if I were put in a time machine and sent back to 2004,” Taylor said, laughing. “And I was top two or three in the world. I would destroy myself. The competition has gone up, the equipment has gone up and players have gotten better and stronger. The sport overall is better for it.”
Nick McCarvel is a freelance writer based in New York. He has covered all four of tennis' Grand Slams as well as the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. McCarvel is a freelance writer for TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.