Kunieda, de Groot finish 2022 as World No. 1 while Vink celebrates career's first

Japan's Shingo Kunieda and the Netherlands' Diede de Groot won their tenth and fifth ITF World Champions Awards, respectively, while rising star Niels Vink celebrated a personal and nation's first 13 Dec 2022
A male wheelchair tennis player extends his arms after returning the ball.
Twenty-year-old Vink is the first Dutch quad player to win an ITF World Champions Award.
Ⓒ Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
By ITF and IPC

Japan's Shingo Kunieda and the Netherlands' Diede de Groot have ended the year at the top of the rankings once again while de Groot's compatriot, 20-year-old Niels Vink, marked that milestone for the first time.

This marks the tenth time that Kunieda is crowned the men's singles ITF World champion in his career, and a fifth time for de Groot in the women's singles.

First for Vink 

Twenty-year-old Niels Vink clinched an ITF World Champions Award by the narrowest of margins to become the first player from the Netherlands to finish year-end No. 1 in the quad category.

While the Netherlands is one of the most dominant nations in terms of wheelchair tennis, Vink has broken new ground for his country by becoming the first Dutch quad player to lay claim to an ITF World Champions Award.

This was the year that the Netherlands were destined to top the quad category and it was more of a question of which of their two stars would get there. In the end, it was Vink who pipped countryman Sam Schroder to the year-end ranking by just nine points.

The two Dutchmen split Grand Slam singles titles, with Vink winning at Roland Garros and the US Open. Despite Schroder defeating Vink in the year-end Masters, it was the younger of the two players who managed to finish on top in the rankings.

“It is a really special and an amazing feeling to be named World Champion for the first time in my career,” Vink said. “This was the best year so far for me. A few dreams became reality. I became world number one, I played in all four Grand Slams, I won my first and second Slam and three Grand Slams in doubles.

“On my own, I was never able to be in this position, so I really want to thank my team around me and a very special thanks to my coach Hans Jurgen.”

Super Shingo 

Shingo Kunieda has capped another remarkable season on the men’s wheelchair tennis tour by winning the ITF World Champions Awards for an astonishing tenth time in his career.

Kunieda, who first received the award in 2007, has more World Champions Awards than any of his male peers and it is only women’s wheelchair tennis legend Esther Vergeer who has won more individual awards.

Now aged 38, the Japanese player started the season with a bang, picking up the first three Grand Slam singles titles of the year, and most importantly becoming the first men’s wheelchair tennis player to complete a career Grand Slam, as well as a career Golden Slam, by finally clinching a first major title on grass at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. 

“2022 became another special year for me,” Kunieda said. “I finally won the Wimbledon singles for the first time in my career, achieving the career Grand Slam and the career Golden Slam for the first time in the history of men’s wheelchair tennis."

Kunieda’s victory at Wimbledon was his 50th major title overall in what has been an incredible career in the sport. 

“I am proud of myself,” he said. “But these achievements didn’t happen without the support from my team - my wife, coach, physio, sponsors and fans. I would like to celebrate another monumental year with them.”

Dominant de Groot 

Diede de Groot finished the year as women’s wheelchair world No. 1 for a fifth time in what was her most ruthless season to date.

The Dutchwoman went unbeaten in singles throughout an entire season for the first time in her career. She picked up 10 titles in total, including victories at all four Grand Slams and the year-ending NEC Wheelchair Singles Masters.

De Groot ends 2022 with an extraordinary 38-0 win-loss record in singles and alongside her partner Aniek van Koot she picked up a further eight titles in doubles, losing just one match all year in the Wimbledon final against Yui Kamiji and Dana Mathewson.

"I am incredibly proud to make back-to-back calendar Grand Slams and end 2022 as year-end No. 1 again," de Groot said. "It’s the result of consistency and all the hard work put in by my team and myself. I’m thankful for all the support."

The 25-year-old will go into the 2023 season looking to extend her 74-match winning streak, but has a way to go before getting near legendary countrywoman Esther Vergeer’s 470-match winning run that saw her go undefeated for 10 years.