Welcome to 2019: Wheelchair tennis

Fierce rivalries and epic fights for dominance await 18 Jan 2019
male wheelchair tennis player Shingo Kunieda hits a backhand

Shingo Kunieda will be the man to beat in 2019 after returning to the top spot in men's singles

ⒸGetty Images

The battles for the men’s, women’s and quad world No. 1s will be fierce as a new wheelchair tennis season kicks off.

Kunieda dominates…for now

Shingo Kunieda had a 2018 to remember. After struggling with injuries for more than a year, Japan’s superstar was back into full form, winning two Grand Slams and the Singles Masters and returning to the world No.1 after two years.

He had not won a singles Grand Slam since September 2015 at the US Open; now he has already claimed 22.

It will not be an easy task for Kunieda to remain top of the men’s rankings though with so many outstanding players vying for the world No.1.

Gustavo Fernandez is definitely one of them. The Argentinian enjoys big challenges and already knows what it takes to reach the top place as he became Latin America’s first player to do so in 2017.

Great Britain’s Paralympic champion Gordon Reid and compatriot and former world No.1 Alfie Hewett are also forces to be reckoned with, as well as four-time Grand Slam champion Stephane Houdet of France.

De Groot-Kamiji rivalry to continue

While there are many challengers for Kunieda in the men’s rankings, Diede de Groot seems to have big opposition only from Yui Kamiji.

The Dutch absolutely dominated the 2018 season by winning three Grand Slams and the Singles Masters. She also became the first woman to win the singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon in the same year and is on her way to be considered one of history’s best.

Who can stop her, then? None other than Japan’s seven-time Grand Slam winner Kamiji.

The world No. 2 was International Tennis Federation (ITF) World Champion twice in her career, the last time in 2017. That year, she won a staggering 14 titles!

Even though she could not stop De Groot from surpassing her in the world rankings last year, Kamiji will surely continue to present battle as her home Paralympic Games in Tokyo approaches.

Alcott, or Wagner, that is the question

Australia’s Dylan Alcott returned to world No.1 by the end of 2018, surpassing long-time rival David Wagner.

It was a brilliant year for him as he won the Australian Open for a fourth consecutive time, the US Open and the Singles Masters, as well as leading his country to World Team Cup victory.

But USA’s 16-time Grand Slam champion Wagner is hoping for a comeback in a special year as Wimbledon will stage quad singles and doubles events for the first time.