No. 39: Stephane Houdet’s magical Roland Garros

Just hours after defeating Shingo Kunieda for the Roland Garros singles titles, Stephane Houdet partnered with him to win the doubles title. 23 Nov 2013 By IPC

“Definitely, it was the most successful moment in my career. My dream in London was to have two gold medals. In a way, I succeeded six months later in Paris.”

On the final day of the 2013 Roland Garros wheelchair tennis tournament, France’s Stephane Houdet defeated Japan’s world No. 1 Shingo Kunieda for the men’s singles title in a three-hour, three-set match, before partnering with him later in the day to win the doubles title.

“Definitely, it was the most successful moment in my career,” Houdet said. “My dream in London was to have two gold medals. In a way, I succeeded six months later in Paris.”

For the second year in a row in Paris world No. 2 Houdet and Kunieda went to a final set tiebreak in the men’s singles final on 7 June, Houdet finally clinching a 7-5, 5-7, 7-6(5) victory.

Two years in a row, Houdet had now beaten Kunieda in the Roland Garros final on his home court, and it marked his seventh Grand Slam singles title.

After the world’s two best players split the first two sets, Houdet and Kunieda exchanged games all the way until Kunieda forced a tiebreaker.

Houdet took the first three points of the tiebreaker, and although the defending Paralympic champion got within a point at 5-4 and saved a match point at 6-5, Houdet eventually wrapped up his second Grand Slam title on home clay.

Just hours later, they resumed play, on the same side of the court, lining up against Great Britain’s Gordon Reid and the Netherlands’ Ronald Vink in the doubles final.

“As soon as we start the match we know that we will be opponents and not partners anymore,” Houdet said. “We both love the game, and playing each other is also guaranteed to be a fair and nice fight.”

Houdet and Kunieda were successfully able to emulate the success in Paris they had in 2010, winning their second Roland Garros doubles in another match that went to a tiebreaker with a score of 3-6, 6-4 (10-6).

Earlier this year, 43-year-old Houdet credited his robust meals of dried fruits, couscous and sugar for his titles.

“The French is the main tournament of the year, in terms of points and of prize money and of course the main notoriety for a (Frenchman) as we’re at home,” Houdet said.

“Winning in your country is a dream and if you can win both singles and doubles it looks like the best accomplishment.”

Kunieda still managed to finish the season as the world’s No. 1 men’s singles player – with Houdet second – while in doubles the final rankings were swapped, with Houdet at No. 1.

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