In his legendary career, Shingo Kunieda had accomplished nearly everything, including winning nearly 90% of all his matches.
And then he reminded everyone why he’s the world’s No. 1-ranked player in a classic Wimbledon men’s wheelchair tennis final on Sunday, July 10 at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
Kunieda rallied for a 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10-5) triumph over Britain’s Alfie Hewett, winning the last seven points in the tie break. In doing so, Kunieda captured his first Wimbledon singles title, the 28th Grand Slam singles crown of his career. He had already won the Australian Open (11 times), the French Open (eight times) and the US Open (eight times).
What’s more, the 38-year-old completed the career Grand Slam on Sunday. He’s the first men’s wheelchair tennis player to accomplish that feat.
A three-time Paralympic singles gold medalist (2008, 2012, 2021), Kunieda reflected on his career in the euphoric afterglow of his Wimbledon feat.
“This was a very special moment and my most special moment since Tokyo 2020,” Kunieda was quoted as saying by the International Tennis Federation website. “Tokyo was the biggest highlight of my career, and this was almost the same.”
Why was Sunday’s win so special?
Kunieda noted that he “really wanted to get this title.”
“At my age, I’m 38, I was thinking this might be my last chance today, so I am very happy,” he added. “This is certainly my best Grand Slam title, certainly the hardest to win because of the grass.
“I have a good clay-court record but in the past, I didn’t play well on grass. However, this year I found a way to play on grass and maybe now I can say that I can play well on grass.”
Kunieda Shines in 2022
Already this year, Kunieda has won the Australian Open (in January) and the French Open (in June), and he can complete the calendar Grand Slam by winning the US singles title in September.
Kunieda said he’s taking nothing for granted as he moves closer to the end of his illustrious career.
Seeking advice from another all-time great last year helped him complete his quest to win the singles final at Wimbledon for the first time. (He was the runner-up to Gustavo Fernandez in 2019.)
After conquering Hewett on Sunday, Kunieda recalled asking Roger Federer, owner of eight Wimbledon singles titles, for tips playing on grass.
“My question was how to play on grass and how to think when behind on grass,” the Reitaku University alum told reporters at Wimbledon.
“Roger said that I should attack every point and that if I made a mistake, have no regrets,” Kunieda remembered. “He said that’s the key, to have no regrets. Today, when I made a mistake I said, ‘this is OK.’ Then I immediately went to the next point and was aggressive. That was key.”
Kunieda is also an accomplished doubles player. He has 22 Grand Slam doubles titles on his impressive CV, including in this month’s Wimbledon tournament, where he teamed up with Fernandez to defeat Gordon Reid and Hewett 6-3, 6-1. Most notably, the Kunieda-Fernandez victory halted their foes’ bid for an 11th consecutive Grand Slam doubles title on Friday, July 9.
"We can't take anything away from these guys, they've been desperate to beat us for some time now,” Hewett was quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
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