Shingo Kunieda resumes his bid to become the first men’s wheelchair singles player to complete a calendar Grand Slam this week, as 24 players vie for the six wheelchair tennis titles at Wimbledon on 7-10 July.
It will be another historic week for the sport as The Championships features an eight-strong draw for the quad division for the first time, with a new Wimbledon quad singles champion set to be crowned. But Kunieda will be hoping that he can further cement his legendary status by securing the only Grand Slam title yet to elude him, having won the men’s doubles title at the All England Club back in 2006.
Kunieda’s 2006 doubles title alongside fellow Japanese player Satoshi Saida remains the 38-year-old’s only Grand Slam triumph on grass among his recording-breaking 48 titles at the majors, but it has to be documented that it was not until 10 years after Kunieda’s doubles success that Wimbledon introduced wheelchair singles draws, with Kunieda missing the inaugural men’s singles event in 2016 as he recovered from elbow surgery.
Prior to the introduction of Wimbledon men’s and women’s wheelchair singles events in 2016, Kunieda had won the singles titles at the other three Grand Slams in the same year on five different occasions – in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015.
The closest the world No.1 has come to the Wimbledon singles title was when he finished runner-up to Gustavo Fernandez in 2019 – a year when Fernandez won the first three majors of the year to come closest to completing the calendar Grand Slam and the career Grand Slam in the era when all four singles titles have been available to wheelchair players.
Of the four players to have won the Wimbledon men’s singles title since 2016, only Fernandez, 2016 champion Gordon Reid and 2021 champion Joachim Gerard have the chance of adding to those previous victories this year, Gerard having stretched his winning sequence on grass to eight matches after his success at The Queen’s Club last month.
DE GROOT GOING FOR SEVENTH STRAIGHT
After completing the Golden Slam in 2021 and becoming the first women’s wheelchair player to achieve the calendar Grand Slam, Diede de Groot arrives at Wimbledon this year having won the last six women’s singles titles at the majors.
The 25-year-old is also on a 52-match winning streak since losing out to world No.2 Yui Kamiji in the final of the Melbourne Open in February 2021 and the top seed also has a 14-1 win-loss record on grass after beating Kamiji recently in Eastbourne, where they met on grass for the first time.
Apart from winning last year’s grass court warm-up tournament at the Birmingham Classic, Kamiji has yet to reach the singles final at Wimbledon, reaching the semi-finals on three occasions and bowing out twice in the quarter-finals. If she could rise to the heights of her six doubles titles at The Championships, then it would see Kamiji complete a career Grand Slam.
One of Kamiji’s two singles quarter-final losses at Wimbledon came last year, against compatriot Momoko Ohtani, who also has Grand Slam-winning form against De Groot, having beaten the world No.1 in the Roland Garros semi-finals in 2020.
The only loss on De Groot’s grass court record came against countrywoman Aniek van Koot in the 2019 Wimbledon final, that title decider bringing world No.3 van Koot her most recent win over De Groot.
NEW QUAD CHAMPION
The expanded quad division draw will see eight players vie for the Wimbledon quad singles and doubles titles for the first time this year. With Dylan Alcott having retired after the Australian Open, Dutch duo Sam Schroder and Niels Vink are the likely favourites as Schroder bids to go one better than when finishing runners-up on his Wimbledon debut last year.
World No. 1 Vink makes his Wimbledon debut this year but is no stranger to pulling out big results on British soil, having won the British Open title on his debut at a Super Series tournament in 2019.
Since quad division players made their Wimbledon debuts in 2019, Andy Lapthorne has reached three finals at The Championships, finishing runner-up to Alcott in the inaugural quad singles while also partnering the Australian to the inaugural quad doubles title. The world No. 3 also partnered David Wagner to upset Schroder and Vink in the 2021 Wimbledon quad doubles final and the 31-year-old Londoner will hope to reach at least one final this year in front of his home crowd.
Koji Sugeno is the only other player in this year’s quad event to have Wimbledon experience after playing in 2019, when he faced Alcott in his semi-final. Heath Davidson will bid to try and maintain the Australian success this year as he makes his Wimbledon debut alongside Vink, Donald Ramphadi and Ymanitu Silva.