Shingo Kunieda's quest to win elusive Wimbledon title
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal aren't the only tennis legends in action at Wimbledon this week.
Driving the news: Japan's Shingo Kunieda, the greatest wheelchair tennis player of all time, began his quest this morning to fill the only remaining gap on his résumé: winning the Wimbledon singles title.
The big picture: Kunieda, 38, lost the use of his legs to a tumor at age 9; by 22, he was ranked No. 1 in the world.
- He's won 27 Grand Slam singles titles (no other man has more than five) and 21 Grand Slam doubles titles, including three at Wimbledon even as the singles crown eludes him.
- "I wish very, very much to win [the singles title] and I will prepare … with everything in my power," Kunieda told the Wall Street Journal.
Between the lines: There's a reasonable explanation for Kunieda's goose egg at the All England Club: The singles event didn't exist until 2016.
- Grass and wheels don't mix well — it takes "three times more power" to push a chair along grass, says Kunieda — so organizers were hesitant to introduce a singles tournament.
- They reached a tipping point six years ago as the sport grew in popularity and players — who now use harder tires and larger front wheels on grass — got better.
The backdrop: Wheelchair tennis has been around since 1976 when a skier named Brad Parks was paralyzed.
- Parks and his therapist began playing tennis in specially designed chairs with the same rules that exist today: two bounces allowed.
- By 1985, the inaugural international event — the World Team Cup — was held with six teams. This year's Cup featured 44.