In 2019, Dylan Alcott, Diede de Groot and Gustavo Fernandez arrived at Wimbledon unbeaten in the first two majors of the year and with the calendar Grand Slam a hot topic of conversation.
Two years on, Australia's Alcott and the Netherlands' de Groot are in the same position as they prepare to return to the hallowed grass courts at the third Grand Slam, with four days of wheelchair tennis competition set to start on Thursday (8 July). It will be the last major wheelchair tennis event before August's Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
De Groot is the first wheelchair player to hold all four Grand Slam singles titles at the same time after winning her maiden Roland Garros title in 2019. She suggested after her second victory in Paris that she had put too much pressure on winning a third successive Wimbledon title two years ago. She was ultimately beaten in the final by fellow Dutchwoman Aniek van Koot.
While de Groot and van Koot are the only two previous winners of the Wimbledon women’s singles to line up in this year’s eight-player field, world No. 2 Yui Kamiji is perhaps the most likely threat to a fifth successive Dutch victory. The Japanese star won through to face de Groot in both the Australian Open and Roland Garros finals this year.
Other players to look out for include Colombia’s Angelica Bernal and Japan’s Momoko Ohtani. Both make their Wimbledon debuts after appearing at their first Grand Slam in 2020, with Ohtani notably beating de Groot to reach the final in Paris last year.
Meanwhile, Jordanne Whiley and Lucy Shuker fly the flag for the home nation, and South Africa’s Kgothatso Montjane returns after reaching the semi-finals in both 2018 and 2019.
GOING FOR PERFECTION
Alcott emulated de Groot’s achievement of winning the four major singles titles successively in 2018. He also became the inaugural Wimbledon quad singles champion in 2019.
Fast forward to 2021, the only blots on Alcott’s Grand Slam record in the last two years are two successive losses in US Open finals – firstly to British opponent Andy Lapthorne in 2019 and then to Dutchman Sam Schroeder in 2020.
Schroeder is the only player to have beaten Alcott since making his spectacular Grand Slam debut, defeating the latter at last year's US Open. The 21-year-old did so again on clay at last month’s French Riviera Open to end Alcott’s 14-match winning streak.
World No. 3 Schroeder who is making his Wimbledon debut this year, and world No. 4 David Wagner of the USA will meet one of either Alcott or Lapthorne in the quad singles semi-finals.
While there was no Wimbledon in 2020, it did not stop Japan's Shingo Kunieda from making history.
Kunieda’s Australian Open and seventh US Open men’s singles titles last season saw him break the record for most Grand Slam titles won by a wheelchair player, as he claimed his 45th title at the majors in both singles and doubles in New York.
However, having won the inaugural Wimbledon men’s wheelchair doubles event sanctioned for world ranking points in 2006, Kunieda still has one major accolade missing from his extraordinary career CV.
Since singles events were first introduced to the Wimbledon schedule in 2016, the closest that world No.1 Kunieda has come to lifting the men’s title was 2019, when he lost out in three sets in the final to Argentina's Fernandez.
This year world No. 3 Fernandez is one of two former champions among the men’s field. The other is Great Britain's Gordon Reid, the inaugural Wimbledon wheelchair singles champion in 2016.
Another contender hot this year is Belgian Joachim Gerard, who secured his first career Grand Slam title after his victory at the Australian Open in February. Gerard’s triumph in Melbourne was his second successive Grand Slam final against compatriot Alfie Hewett after the Brit claimed his second Roland Garros title last October before making it a hat-trick of titles in Paris last month and subsequently moving above Fernandez to become world No. 2.
Wheelchair tennis at Wimbledon will run until 11 July and more information can be found on the ITF's website.