Shingo Kunieda once again showed he is unrivaled in the world of men’s wheelchair tennis when he beat Alfie Hewett to claim his 11th Australian Open singles title on Thursday.
It took 2 hours, 12 minutes and three sets, but Kunieda got the win in the Melbourne heat, beating the five-time Grand Slam singles champion from Britain 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.
“I played the best tennis of my career, especially in the final set,” he said. “I don’t know how I did it, but I pushed past my limit. I was motivated by my strong desire to show how I can play.”
Kunieda was knocked out in the semifinals of the 2021 tournament but was able to return to the pinnacle this year at Melbourne Park, with seven service breaks in the final, one more than Hewett, and a solid all-court game that saw him be particularly effective at the net.
He secured three breaks of serve in the first set, the two most vital coming at 5-5 and 7-5, but Hewett bounced back to take a 4-0 lead in the second set.
Service breaks in first and fifth game of the decider delivered the title, which the 37-year-old celebrated with a double fist pump as he watched a Hewett lob sail over the baseline.
It is Kunieda’s 26th singles Grand Slam title, according to the Australian Open website, and comes a day after he and Argentine partner Gustavo Fernandez were defeated in the wheelchair doubles final by Hewett and his countryman Gordon Reid.
Earlier in the day, Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara had their tournament ended at the semifinal stage when they lost 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in the women’s doubles.
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Australian Open, Shingo Kunieda