Dutchman Niels Vink completed a 6-4 7-6(8) victory over compatriot Sam Schroder in the quad singles final at Roland Garros on Sunday, securing the 19-year-old world No. 1 his first Grand Slam singles title.
The match had been suspended just two points in to the second-set tiebreak on Saturday after the dark rain clouds that had hovered over Paris for much of the late afternoon finally burst. Schroder was leading 2-0 in the second set breaker, but it was Vink who started the stronger when play resumed on Sunday morning.
“Difficult,” was Vink’s response when asked how he had found the overnight suspension of play. ”I had to start in a tiebreak at 2-0 down. So I have to be there on the first point. Then, yeah, it happened.”
He was definitely 'there' on the first point when play resumed and, in fact, won six of the first seven points played before coming from 8-7 down to wrap up victory.
Vink has proved to be the dominant player in the quad category since the retirement of 15-time Grand Slam champion Dylan Alcott in January. It was Schroder, the winner at the Australian Open, who took over Alcott’s world No. 1 ranking after the Aussie great retired – but Vink surpassed his friend just four weeks later, and had beaten Schroder on all three occasions they had faced one another between the Australian Open and Roland Garros.
Reaching the No. 1 ranking, however, was just one thing on the list of career goals for Vink.
“Yeah, I have achieved a lot. A lot of my dreams,” he acknowledged. “But, yeah, I had one dream that I hadn't completed, and that was winning a Grand Slam. Now I have one. That's a dream that came true.”
Schroder competed well against his younger countryman this weekend – and he has the consolation of the quad doubles title that he and Vink won together on Friday. But defeat will surely inspire the two-time Grand Slam champion to work even harder in order to reign Vink in.
For now though, it is Vink who will claim the headlines and dominate the spotlight – something that the sport’s newest Grand Slam champion richly deserves.
“Since I was a little kid I watched tennis on the TV,” he said. “I didn't know it was Roland Garros. I just thought it was a tournament on the orange stuff. I really liked it. Now I won this tournament. That's incredible.”
Two other matches were held over from Saturday following the poor weather in Paris. Diede de Groot and Aniek van Koot returned to court to complete a 7-6(5) 1-6 [10-8] victory over Yui Kamiji and Kgothatso Montjane, with the match having been suspended overnight at 4-4 in the match tiebreak.
And in the men’s doubles final, the last match of the wheelchair tournament at this year’s Roland Garros to get underway, the British pair of Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid managed to maintain their incredible Grand Slam winning streak, defeating Gustavo Fernandez and Shingo Kunieda 7-6(5) 7-6(5) to win their 10th consecutive major doubles title together.
Hewett and Reid are now the only partnership to have claimed three men's doubles titles at Roland Garros.
De Groot and Kunieda reign supreme again
Earlier in the tournament, Diede de Groot and Shingo Kunieda both added to their ever-increasing Grand Slam singles title hauls following victories against Yui Kamiji and Gustavo Fernandez, respectively, in the wheelchair singles finals.
World No. 1 De Groot recorded a 6-4 6-1 victory over Kamiji on Saturday in one hour and 13 minutes in the first-ever wheelchair singles final to take place on Court Philippe Chatrier. The win saw De Groot claim her sixth consecutive Grand Slam title, as well as extend a winning streak to 41 matches – not even Iga Swiatek, also a winner on Saturday, can match that run of excellence.
Meanwhile, Kunieda survived a rollercoaster of a match against Fernandez, with the momentum continually shifting throughout an epic encounter – but the Japanese world No. 2 eventually ended a 6-2 5-7 7-5 winner after two hours and 41 minutes. Kunieda is now on his own winning streak of three consecutive Grand Slam titles, having also lifted the winner’s trophies at the US Open last year and the Australian Open this year.
Despite the incredible levels of success that this pair of champions have enjoyed already in recent months, De Groot and Kunieda both expressed a desire to keep working so that more titles would come their way.
“I think what motivates me in finding a new way is that I know that my rivals are doing the same thing for me,” De Groot explained. “So I know that they are trying to keep improving themselves to basically chase me or beat me, and I have to do the same in order to stay on top.”
She will take some stopping. Winning six straight Grand Slam singles titles is something that only two other wheelchair tennis players have ever managed – the great Esther Vergeer and her fellow champion this week, Kunieda.
The Japanese player already sits at the top of the pile – but even he is prone to moments of doubt. Although Kunieda had won this title seven times before (as well as 26 Grand Slam singles titles in total prior to this tournament), he confessed after Saturday’s final that he was unsure whether he would ever win in Paris again.
“Gustavo is king of clay, and Alfie (Hewett) is also very good on clay,” he said. “Many times I couldn't win anymore here, I thought.”
He has achieved so much in his glittering career that it seems churlish to pick at things he has not achieved. But, as the tour moves on from the French capital after this weekend, Kunieda’s focus will surely be on capturing the one Grand Slam singles title that has so far eluded him.
“Wimbledon is last one,” he said “I couldn't get title there. So, yeah, I wish very, very much to win there. I will prepare for that with everything in my power.”
The wheelchair tennis tournament at Wimbledon will take place from 7-10 July 2022.