After winning the wheelchair singles title at Wimbledon in July 2022, Shingo Kunieda (Japan) set three new Guinness World Records:
- First wheelchair tennis player to complete a “Career Grand Slam” in singles (men’s)
- First wheelchair tennis player to complete a “Career Golden Slam” in singles (men’s)
- First wheelchair tennis player to complete a “Career Super Slam” in singles (men’s)
This is in addition to three other world records the iconic player already holds, including the most Paralympic singles titles won in wheelchair tennis (men).
He has since returned to Japan after achieving his historic feat on the famous Wimbledon grass courts. Shortly after, we were able to present him with his Guinness World Records certificates and once again talk to him about his recent success.
You break world records every year, does it sometimes get boring for you?
No way. Whenever I aim for the Grand Slam, I always put all my effort into it thinking that this might be the last time I can get it.
After winning gold at the Paralympic Games, I got so exhausted that retirement even came to mind.
However, I had the best performance of my career at the Australian Open earlier in the year, which gave me new goals to strive for. It gave me an impetus to win in France and at Wimbledon, I think.
What made your performance at the Australian Open your best career?
For example, I hit backhands like never before. And it happened twice in a row. When I came back from that game, I felt the need to repeat that.
This motivation pushed me to improve not only my backhand but also my forehand and my serves – I felt there was more potential for improvement.
How do you feel now looking back at all you’ve accomplished so far (which is a lot)?
First of all, I couldn’t have done it without the support I get from people around me.
And I can’t achieve that if I’m not healthy and fit. So I think preparing for matches with health and fitness in mind every day has brought me the result.
What was it like winning Wimbledon this year?
Men’s wheelchair singles at Wimbledon began in 2016; this is the latest category to be added to the Grand Slam.
2016 for me was not a great year with injuries, and I focused on overcoming them. So I felt the pressure to find another Grand Slam to win. Now, in 2022, overcoming that pressure to win it was special.
As far as titles go, you’ve nailed it all – what’s next for you?
As you say, in terms of titles, I won the Paralympic Games and won every Grand Slam tournament; I have no other titles to claim. In this regard, I feel satisfied.
However, I feel there is a lot I can do in terms of technique. So I want to focus on that for the rest of my career.
What do you do on your days off?
I get so lazy on my days off that I can’t show it to you!
I tell myself that this laziness comes in reaction to all the attention I bring to the courts. I like Shogi (Japanese chess) so I play that online, as well as a few video games.
What motivates you as a player?
Instead of being inspired by someone, I always wanted to be a better player.
Whatever title I get or lose a title, it never changes. I want to keep this trait as a foundation.
Obviously, when you win, it’s great. But the important thing is when you lose, how you learn a lesson from losing.
When you have a long career like me, you will also have a lot of losses.
For me, I’m never more excited about the practices that happen after losing a match, because I can think about new ideas that I could incorporate into my tennis.
If you don’t try, you won’t win or lose.
If you win, great. And if not, just try again. This desire to try is the secret to being in a position of success, no matter what you do.
So if you have something you want to try, do it and experience winning and losing. That’s how you improve as a human being, I think.
Header Image Credit: Right – Shingo Kunieda, Left – Shutterstock