Ever since winning a silver medal in doubles at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games as a teenager, Diede de Groot has made it her mission to get to the top of the tennis world.
That’s why 2019 is a year the Dutch wheelchair tennis star, now 22, won’t soon forget. Her outstanding year makes it to No. 6 on the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC’s) Top 10 Moments of 2019.
CAREER GRAND SLAM
At the French Open, De Groot made wheelchair tennis history by becoming the first player to hold all four Grand Slam singles titles at once.
At Roland Garros 2019, she won in commanding fashion defeating Yui Kamiji in only 59 minutes 6-1, 6-0. She celebrated that historic victory with her parents and sister.
"Luckily Paris isn’t very far from home,” de Groot said at the time. “Usually they don’t get to see me play because they work and can’t get that much time off, but this week, when it’s only a four-hour drive they can do it all in a day. It’s really good to have them here.”
It turned out to be quite a year for de Groot. She just missed earning a calendar year Grand Slam in singles after winning the Australian, French, and US Opens.
The only blemish in an otherwise perfect year on the courts came surprisingly at Wimbledon, where De Groot was the two-time defending champion and where she won the first of her many Grand Slam titles.
But in a hard-fought three set match at Wimbledon, de Groot was stunned by fellow Dutchwoman Aniek van Koot, and missed an opportunity to win her fifth straight Grand Slam title.
After her US Open victory a few months later, de Groot marvelled at the heights she’s now reached in the sport while having a target on her back.
“It’s definitely a whole different game when you’re No. 1,” de Groot said. “A lot of years you work to get to that point, to that No. 1 spot, and then once you’re there everyone is after your spot and trying to chase you.”
SHINING IN DOUBLES
It wasn’t only in singles where de Groot showed her dominance in 2019.
She teamed up with van Koot to complete a calendar doubles Grand Slam.
With victory at all four majors in both singles and doubles now on her resumé, de Groot reminisced about some of her fondest memories.
“Wimbledon for me was the first time that I won it [a Grand Slam], so that will always be very special, and the atmosphere at Wimbledon is very authentic. I really like being there,” she said.
“But the Australian Open has always been my favourite Slam. I just like how tough the conditions are – you’re far away from home, it’s so hot – and I like kangaroos!”
She’ll be looking for another first in 2020… a maiden Paralympic gold medal.
“Successful Paralympians in Holland get to meet the king and experience other special things. A gold medal is something I really want to achieve.”