Four-time Paralympic champion Kunieda announces retirement from wheelchair tennis

Japan's Shingo Kunieda, who made his Paralympic debut at Athens 2004, won medals at five consecutive Games 23 Jan 2023
A male wheelchair tennis player holds the tennis racquet with his right hand
Kunieda, who is No. 1 in the men's singles rankings, has won 50 Grand Slam titles throughout his career.
ⒸBob Martin/OIS
By ITF and IPC

Shingo Kunieda, considered one of the most decorated men’s player in the history of wheelchair tennis, has announced his retirement from the sport.

The news brings an end to the Japanese athlete’s record-breaking 21-year international career. He captured four gold medals at the Paralympic Games, including three in the men’s singles tournament, and he also became the first men’s wheelchair tennis player to complete a career Golden Slam.

“I’ve been thinking about retirement since my dream came true at Tokyo Paralympics,” 38-year-old Kunieda wrote on social media. “Last year, (winning the) Wimbledon singles title for the first time made me feel that my energy was little left to compete.

“I felt that I have done enough in what I wanted to accomplish and thought it was the right time to retire” after becoming the ITF World Champion for the 10th time in his career, he added.

A legend

Kunieda retired from wheelchair tennis while at the top of the men’s singles rankings. He claimed 50 Grand Slam titles – 28 in wheelchair singles and 22 in wheelchair doubles – since making his Tour debut in 2001.

After being diagnosed with a tumour at the age of nine, Kunieda took up wheelchair tennis at the age of 11 after his mother discovered the Tennis Training Centre in Kashiwa City, just 30 minutes from their home in Chiba.

In 2004 he partnered with countryman Satoshi Saida to win the men’s doubles gold medal at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, and he went on to become the only wheelchair tennis player to secure a medal at five successive Paralympic tennis events.

Kunieda won his first men’s singles Paralympic gold medal at Beijing 2008, where he also captured bronze in the men’s doubles. At London 2012, he repeated his feat in the singles tournament, beating Robin Ammerlaan of the Netherlands in the final in straight sets. 

Despite struggling with an elbow injury and taking prolonged periods away from competition, Kunieda returned to the court at Rio 2016 where he captured a men’s doubles bronze medal.

Five years later, he brought joy to the host nation at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, which were held following a one-year postponement, by winning his third gold medal in the men’s singles tournament.

Final season

Kunieda’s final season on Tour brought titles at the Australian Open and the French Open. He completed the career Grand Slam after capturing his long-awaited Wimbledon singles crown with a thrilling victory over home favourite Alfie Hewett in the final.

Kunieda won his final singles title in October 2022 in front of 7,000 spectators at Ariake Tennis Park, the scene of his Tokyo 2020 gold medal, as he edged Japan's 16-year-old Tokito Oda in a final set tie-break at the Rakuten Japan Open.