Shingo Kunieda made history at the Australian Open as he equated Dutch Esther Vergeer’s record of winning 44 wheelchair tennis Grand Slam titles on Sunday. The Japanese beat Brit Gordon Reid 6-4, 6-4 in the men’s final, also giving him his 10th Australian Open.
“Esther is the best player in wheelchair tennis, so it is a big honour, yeah, same, equal the Grand Slam title,” said Kunieda.
“I don’t care about (the) record. This is a big victory because I couldn’t win a Grand Slam last year. Now my age is 35. The rivals are very young. Sometimes I was feeling I don’t have any more chance to win a Grand Slam. So (I am) very happy, yeah.”
It’s a 23rd singles Grand Slam for him, but first since Roland Garros in 2018. He’ll maintain his position as the world No.1.
There was a pair of Japanese singles champions at Melbourne Park for the Australian Open, with Yui Kamiji winning the women’s.
It’s a significant year for all wheelchair players with the Tokyo Paralympics set for late August, but even more so for Kunieda and Kamiji, who are well-known Para athletes in their home country.
Kamiji beat Dutch player Aniek van Koot 6-2 6-2. It is her seventh Grand Slam singles title and her first since Wimbledon in 2018.
“I’m very happy,” said Kamiji. “I don’t think I was perfect in these days. But I just focus to play my performance. Yeah, I feel I am getting better since after first week of this month. I just play fun and not have pressure, just play my tennis, yeah.”
It’s a third Australian Open singles titles for Kamiji, who first won here in 2017. She now has 22 major titles overall.
It’s the opening year in wheelchair tennis that athletes can complete the Golden Slam winning all four majors and the Paralympics. In the past, calendar dates did not allow the US Open to hold a wheelchair tennis event in a Paralympic year, and just last year Roland Garros and Wimbledon added quad wheelchair events.
By Linda Amiani