Japan's Oda becomes the youngest man ever to win a Wimbledon title

Japanese wheelchair tennis sensation Tokito Oda defeated two-time Paralympian Alfie Hewett in the men's singles final. Diede De Groot won the women's singles, and Niel Vinks won the quad singles in Wimbledon 17 Jul 2023
A male wheelchair tennis player competes
Oda defeated Hewett 6-4, 6-2 on 16 July 2023.
ⒸMike Hewitt/ Getty Images

Just after midday on Sunday, 16 July, a quite staggering record was broken when 17-year-old Tokito Oda became the youngest man ever to win a Wimbledon singles title in any discipline.

“That was my dream to get the win (as the) youngest,” he said on taking the wheelchair men's singles title. “Not only just winning the Grand Slam, that's not my dream. My dream was how fast I can get the win for Wimbledon. I'm so happy to hear about it right now.”

Oda’s record-breaking achievement came just 18 hours after play ended in the men’s doubles final - won by Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid - with Hewett and Oda back on the same Court No. 1 arena for the singles final.

This time the outcome was very different, the Japanese teenager victorious 6-4, 6-2 in a match once again played before a large and vibrant crowd.

“It’s not easy playing someone from their home country," he said before thanking the crowd for their backing. 

“I didn’t expect this level of support and to play on these courts. I am still only 17 (and 69 days) so I want to open the champagne but I can’t”, he told the crowd to great laughter. Sparkling water will have to do he said. 

The teenage champion

The victory for Oda, hot on the heels of defeating Hewett in the Roland Garros singles final, already looks like a changing of the guard within men’s wheelchair tennis. And he can get better he said.

“My goal is winning the whole Grand Slam and winning the Paralympics. My tennis is not perfect right now, so I want to play more things. I'm thinking I want to play more aggressive and playing faster.”

Hewett, meanwhile, focused his post-match thoughts on the burgeoning health of the men’s game. Wheelchair tennis has been put on the map over the past week, he said, given its scheduling on the more high profile courts.

Hewett leads 6-3 in head-to-head clashes with Oda but the tide is very much with the Japanese who hung around on court for seemingly ages to pose for selfies and sign tennis balls.

De Groot adds more titles

Diede De Groot clinched her fifth Wimbledon singles title on 15 July amid extreme gusts of wind out on Court No. 3 that caused her opponent, and good friend, Jiske Griffioen no end of difficulty on serve.

“Warming up before the match at Aorangi, I think out of all the serves I hit, maybe three of them were into the court," said the world No. 1. "It was so difficult.

“I really just knew that it was going to be about those first few balls, like the serve and return. With the wind because you just don't know where the next ball is going to come.”

While the 6-2 6-1 win in just 53 minutes was largely regulation, 26-year-old De Groot has been looking at just how she can come to terms with a winning streak that now extends to 111 matches and 11 successive singles Grand Slam crowns.

“I've done it in a certain way for a very long time and it's working," she said. "But also it's the same every year, we go to the same tournaments, I play the same opponents, I play the same game. 

“From January, I've tried to mix things up a little bit here and there, and give myself a little bit more time between tournaments to really rest and sort of come back down to earth, whereas usually I like to sort of keep going. I have Monday off, but Tuesday usually I'm already back on court because I have another tournament coming. That's how life has been for the past five years.”

The final took place a day after De Groot and Griffioen beat Yui Kamiji and Kgothatso Montjane 6-1, 6-4 in the women’s doubles.  

Jiske Griffioen (L) and Diede De Groot (R) of Netherlands beat Yui Kamiji and Kgothatso Montjane in the women’s doubles. @Mike Hewitt/ Getty Images

Vink wins quad singles

There was record breaking in the quad singles final too.

Not yet 21-years-old, Niels Vink is not so much a phenomenon as already settled most comfortably within the wheelchair tennis establishment.

And now he is a three-time Wimbledon champion. After retaining the quad doubles with Sam Schroder, Vink wasted no time in dismantling his friend, the Australian Heath Davidson 6-1 6-2. At 36-years-old, Davidson was playing his first Wimbledon singles final.

It is a first Wimbledon singles title for Vink and cemented a winning streak of 36 victories in his last 37 outings for the Dutchman who threw back his arms and head and screamed for joy on winning the final point.

“This is one of my best matches I have ever played,” said Vink. “To win Wimbledon, I played amazing. I can’t believe it. My semi-final was very good but this level was better.”

Davidson, on his first appearance in a Grand Slam singles final, was outhit from the very first ball but remained upbeat and gracious throughout, pulling back two games late in the second set to get the final score an air of respectability. There does not look to be a more sporting player in the game.

"Honestly I thought I played pretty well today,” he said. "I could have thrown the kitchen sink at this kid today and he would have just passed me for a winner. They are producing a really great young man and a hell of a tennis player so young.

I’m still happy to be in my first singles final at Wimbledon, this is the Mecca of tennis.”

He also threw in a comparison with the men’s final on Centre Court, also played between two players and 20 and 36.

“I just think he should be out there playing Novak today,” Davidson said of Vink. (“Why not,” countered Vink later.)

“I was shaking when it was 5-0 (second set),” said Vink, who then slipped up and lost two games. It did not affect the outcome, “I played my level again at 5-2,” he said.