After winning the wheelchair singles title at Wimbledon in July 2022, Shingo Kunieda (Japan) has achieved three new Guinness World Record titles:
- First wheelchair tennis player to complete a "Career Grand Slam" in singles (male)
- First wheelchair tennis player to complete a "Career Golden Slam" in singles (male)
- First wheelchair tennis player to complete a "Career Super Slam" in singles (male)
This is in addition to three other world records the iconic player already holds, including the most Paralympic wheelchair tennis singles titles won (male).
He has since returned to Japan after achieving his historic feat on Wimbledon's famous grassy courts. Shortly afterwards, we were able to award him his Guinness World Records certificates and speak to him about his recent success yet again.
You've been breaking world records every year, does it ever get boring for you?
Not at all. Every time I aim for the grand slam, I always put every effort into it thinking it could be the last time I could clinch it.
After winning gold at the Paralympics, I burned out to the extent 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 some new goals to aim for. That gave me an impetus to win at France and in Wimbledon, I think.
What made your performance at the Australian Open your career best?
For example, I've hit backhands like I never did before. And that happened twice in the row. When I came back from that match, I felt the urge to repeat that.
That motivation drove me to improve not only my backhand but also forehand and serves - I felt there's more potential for improvement.
How do you feel now looking back at all the things you've achieved 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 cannot achieve this if I'm not healthy and fit. So I think preparing for matches with health and fitness in mind everyday brought me the result.
What was it like winning Wimbledon this year?
Wheelchair Men's Singles in Wimbledon began in 2016; it is the newest category to be added to the Grand Slam.
2016 for me was not a great year with injuries, and I was focused on how to overcome it. So I felt the pressure to find another Grand Slam up for grabs. Now in 2022, conquering that pressure to win it felt special.
In regard to titles, you've achieved everything - what is next for you?
As you say, in terms of titles, I've won at the Paralympics, and won all the Grand Slams; I have no other titles to claim. In that regard, I do feel satisfied.
However, I feel there is a lot of things I can do in terms of technique. So I want to focus on that for the remainder of my career.
What do you do during your days off?
I become lazy on my days off to the extent that I cannot show you!
I tell myself that this laziness comes as a reaction to all the focus I bring to the courts. I like Shogi (Japanese chess) so I play that online, as well as some video games.
What keeps you motivated as a player?
Instead of being inspired by someone, I always had the urge to be a better player.
Whatever title I get or however I lose a title, that never changes. I want to keep this trait as my 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 have a lot of losses as well.
For me, I'm never more excited in practices that happens after losing a match, because I can think about what new ideas I could incorporate into my tennis.
If you don't try, you won't win or lose.
If you win, then great. And if you don't, then you just have to try again. This urge to try is the secret to be in the position of success, no matter what you are doing.
So, if you have something you want to try, do it, and experience winning and losing. That's how you improve as human being, I believe.
Header image credit: Right - Shingo Kunieda, left - Shutterstock