Kamiji aims to stay World No.1 on her terms

The world’s leading women’s wheelchair tennis player is aiming to stay top of the world in 2015. 04 Mar 2015
A woman in a wheelchair hits a tennis ball as a backhand.

After making her Paralympic debut at London 2012, Japan's Yui Kamiji is steadily rising in the women's wheelchair tennis singles rankings.

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By Yuta Tanaka

Japan’s world No.1 wheelchair tennis player Yui Kamiji has said her focus for 2015 is not just on winning matches, but winning them on her terms.

The 20-year-old rose to prominence last year winning multiple titles, including Grand Slams at Roland Garros and the US Open and became World No. 1 for the first time in May 2014, a position she has retained ever since. Despite being the player to beat on the women’s circuit though, she is not fully satisfied.

"Results are important but last year I couldn't win many games in the way I wanted. This year, I will focus on improving the quality of my games rather than the results. I want to play tennis in my own way and also win in the way I want," she explained.

"My tennis style is to change the strategy as well as tactics depending on the opponent. I don't simply play a game with power. I would rather dominate the game through a combination of techniques and strategies"

Although Kamiji has achieved a lot in a short space of time, she still remains extremely humble and is delighted at the support she is receiving around the world.

“The ranking says I am No.1 but it doesn’t mean I don't lose a game or I have No. 1 skills.

“Therefore, I know that I have to improve my skills regardless of my ranking and I am not at the top yet. So I don't have pressure as a No 1 ranking player.

“I really appreciate all the support no matter what country I play in. When I am often told by fans that I look like I enjoy playing tennis indeed I am, and I want to keep this principle of enjoying tennis by myself so that people who are watching my games can also enjoy them.”

Looking beyond this season, Kamiji is already getting excited about the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and doing better than she did as a 18-year-old at London 2012 where she lost in the quarter finals to the Netherlands’ Aniek Van Koot.

"After the London Paralympics, I set a goal to play in Rio 2016 with my coach and family. I want to focus on every single game from this year," she said.

Kamiji has started 2015 strongly and won her opening competition of the year, the Sydney International Wheelchair Tennis Open. She did however fall at the final hurdle for the second successive year at January’s Australian Open, losing in straight sets to the Netherlands’ Jiske Griffioen.

Her Grand Slam doubles form, together with Great Britain’s Jordanne Whiley, has continued to go from strength-to-strength and in winning the Australian Open the pair secured their fifth consecutive Grand Slam doubles title.

Kamiji clearly has a bright future ahead of her and together with compatriot Shingo Kunieda, the current men’s World No.1, could be the stars of the show when Tokyo hosts the Paralympic Games in 2020.