Shingo Kunieda, the most successful men’s player in wheelchair tennis, is set to retire. The announcement comes just months after Kunieda became the first men’s wheelchair tennis player to complete the career Golden Slam – one of the rarest achievements in tennis. The 38-year-old – who was paralyzed by a spinal tumor when he was nine – is a record-breaking wheelchair tennis icon, and winner of three Paralympic singles gold medals, as well as 28 Grand Slam titles.
50 grand slam titles
Kunieda is the winner of an impressive 28 wheelchair Grand Slam singles, in addition to 22 wheelchair doubles Grand Slam titles. He won his first Grand Slam trophy in 2006 at Wimbledon, while also winning his 50th and final title at last year’s Wimbledon when he finally won the men’s singles title at the All England Club to complete the career Grand Slam. In his final season, Kunieda also won the Australian Open (boasting 11 titles in total), as well as the French Open. And, that’s not all: Kunieda has also won three singles gold medals at the 2008, 2012, and 2021 Paralympics. Throughout the last 2022 season, he also switched the global top spot with champion British wheelchair tennis player, Alfie Hewitt, four times.
699 wheelchair singles in total
In total, Kunieda has won 699 wheelchair singles throughout his remarkable career – close to the 700 currently won by Esther Vergeer, the number one champion in women’s wheelchair tennis. Specifically, Kunieda holds a 699-106 record in singles and 395-127 in doubles. Indeed, Kunieda has led a record-breaking career and serves as inspiration to other people with disabilities across the world – he’s living proof a disability doesn’t stop anyone from accomplishing anything they set their mind to. Although conventional sports are typically inaccessible to people with disabilities, there are fortunately plenty of accessible individual and team sports, including wheelchair tennis, that allow everyone to join in.
Time to hang up the racket
“I’ve been thinking about retirement since my dream came true at the Tokyo Paralympics. Last year’s Wimbledon singles title for the first time made me feel that my energy was little left to compete,” Kunieda said. “By capturing the 10th time (as ITF) World Champion, I felt that I had done enough in what I wanted to accomplish and thought it was the right time to retire.”
Kunieda’s announcement has also made an impact on many big names in wheelchair tennis. “Sad news to hear about the retirement of Shingo Kunieda. Undoubtedly one of the best athletes this sport has and ever will see. You’re an extraordinary role model and ambassador and what you’ve achieved on and off the court has been inspirational,” Alfie Hewiit commented on Twitter. “We’ve shared some big moments and epic battles along the way, some I want to forget. You leave a huge legacy behind you. You and your team should be very proud. Enjoy the retirement Shing.”