Japan’s wheelchair tennis sensation Tokito Oda is just getting started

Seventeen-year-old Oda became the youngest player to become world No. 1 in wheelchair tennis rankings after capturing his maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open. He is ready to continue his success at Wimbledon – and the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games 30 Jun 2023
A male wheelchair tennis player swings his racquet during competition.
Tokito Oda captured his maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open, just seven years after he took up wheelchair tennis.
ⒸJulian Finney/Getty Images
By Ayano Shimizu | The IPC

Tokito Oda has made history in wheelchair tennis multiple times, but the Japanese teenage sensation says he is just getting started. 

Oda became the youngest man to win a Grand Slam title in June 2023, when he defeated three-time Paralympic medallist Alfie Hewett in the final of the men’s singles tournament at the French Open. The 17-year-old athlete also overtook Hewett at the top of the rankings, becoming the youngest world No. 1 in history.

But after the tournament, Oda’s thoughts immediately turned to Wimbledon, the next Grand Slam event that will take place in July 2023.  

“I was very nervous and emotional (during the French Open final). My hands were shaking, and I remember thinking that my heart would beat out of my chest,” Oda recalled during a press conference in Japan. 

“But once I won, I wanted to go straight to Wimbledon and win another title. I wanted to experience this moment again and again – and win as many (Grand Slam titles as possible).

“I’m just getting started so I’ll continue to make my dreams come true,” he said. 

"My goal hasn’t changed at all. It has always been about winning a Grand Slam and becoming world No. 1,” Oda said.


Next stop: Wimbledon 

In the final at the iconic Roland-Garros Stadium, Oda pulled off a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Hewett, who has captured three silver medals across two Paralympic Games. It was a rematch of this year’s Australian Open final, during which Hewett beat Oda in straight sets. 

“Playing against Alfie means a lot to me. I see him as my rival. He is someone I can face 100 more times,” Oda said. “We are the top two seeds so we will play in the final but he is a good player and a difficult opponent to beat. 

Oda, left, won the French Open four months after losing to Hewett in the Australian Open final. @Clive Brunskill/ Getty Images

“He will be playing at home in Wimbledon, so I think this will be an advantage for him. But I still have a chance (to win),” he added. 

Last year, Oda made a quarterfinal exit at Wimbledon, while his childhood hero, Shingo Kunieda completed a career Golden Slam in men’s wheelchair singles.

“The ball slips more and it’s difficult to maneuver the wheelchair," Oda said of Wimbledon's grass courts. "But the most important thing is not to allow my opponent to take control of the match."  

Next generation 

Oda took up wheelchair tennis at age 10 after watching Kunieda play - and he never stopped. When he was 14 years old, Oda became the youngest ever boys’ world No. 1 in the junior wheelchair tennis rankings. He turned pro a year later, thanks to multiple sponsors. 

“My goal hasn’t changed at all for seven years. It has always been about winning a Grand Slam and becoming world No. 1,” Oda said. “I always knew that I could be world No. 1. I’ve always thought about things like, ‘This is how a top-ranked player would play' or ' This is what a top-ranked player would do’.” 

Oda took up wheelchair tennis when he was 10 years old. @Lintao Zhang/ Getty Images

The youngster also went on to face his hero several times before Kunieda retired in January 2023 while he was still world No. 1.

“After the retirement of Mr. Kunieda, whom I followed my whole career, the No. 1 spot in the rankings went to a British player. My biggest motivation was to take the top spot back – I wanted to bring it back to Japan,” he said. 

While he has been dubbed Kunieda’s successor, Oda simply wants people to know him. 

“To be honest, there is pressure. People overseas call me ‘Next Shingo’. I am happy but at the same time, there is a part of me that thinks, ‘I am Tokito Oda’,” the athlete said.

“I want people to know me as Tokito Oda. I know I have what it takes to make that happen and I have the responsibility to deliver good results in the sport.”

All eyes on Paris 

While his current focus is on winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles, Oda is also aiming to top the podium at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. 

Since the Paris 2024 wheelchair tennis competitions will also take place in the Roland-Garros Stadium, Oda said that winning the French Open roughly a year before the Games has been a huge confidence boost.  

Oda defeated Hewett 6-1, 6-4 en route to his maiden Grand Slam victory on 10 June, 2023. @Clive Brunskill/ Getty Images

“I obviously think about Paris (2024) a lot. Being able to play the final on Court Philippe Chatrier, the centre court, is a huge (advantage),” he said. “During the French Open, I didn’t really think about playing on the same court as the Paralympics, but (Paris 2024) is always on my mind. 

“I'm excited to see how far I can go in the sport,” Oda said.