Shingo Kunieda announces his retirement from wheelchair tennis at the age of 38

23 January, 2023

Japan’s Shingo Kunieda, arguably the most successful wheelchair tennis athlete of all time, announced his retirement from the sport at the age of 38. 

Kunieda is the most successful wheelchair tennis player and he has won 50 Grand Slam titles across his singles and doubles career. He has also won four Paralympic gold medals over the course of his illustrious 28-year career in wheelchair tennis.

Kunieda continues to be ranked Number 1 in the world even as he announces his retirement. He completed his career Grand Slam by winning all four major tournaments after clinching the Wimbledon in 2022.

“I have been thinking about retirement since my dream came true at Tokyo Paralympics,” the Japanese player said on social media. “Last year’s Wimbledon singles title for the first time made me feel that my energy was little left to compete.

“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 repertoire and the illustrious achievements in his career are beyond impressive. He has won 11 Australian Open titles. He has also won the Ronald Garros titles and US Open on eight occasions each and as mentioned before, rounded off the Career Grand Slam with his first Wimbledon win last year.

The Japanese prodigy first picked up the tennis racket when he was only 11 years old. It was just two years after he had been diagnosed with a spinal tumor that had prevented his ability to walk and function upright and had restricted him to a wheelchair instead.

Not one to be fazed by the challenge, Kunieda quickly excelled at wheelchair tennis and ended up becoming arguably the greatest proponent of the sport. Besides his 117 career singles titles and 83 doubles titles, the 38-year-old has spent 582 weeks as men’s wheelchair tennis world number one – Novak Djokovic, who holds the men’s record, has had 373 weeks in the top spot.

He won his third Paralympic singles gold at his home Games in Tokyo in 2021 and Kunieda also delivered the athletes’ oath at the opening ceremony.

The Australian Open wheelchair tournament gets underway on Tuesday and Britain’s Alfie Hewett is now the top seed and world number one following Kunieda’s retirement.