Photo: Tommy Hindley / Professional SportShingo Kunieda (JPN)
LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: Shingo Kunieda of Japan began his bid to win back-to-back men’s singles gold medals with an imperious 60 60 win over Rafael Medeiros of Brazil on Centre Court at Eton Manor.
Medeiros made a solid start to the match, earning the first game point, but at 40-30 he double faulted to allow Kunieda back to deuce and a second double fault gave Kunieda the game.
Kunieda served out his opening service game to love to make it 2-0 and with Medeiros making an increasing number of errors against the Japanese player reputed to be the fastest man on the tour, it was soon 4-0.
At 4-0 and 40-15 down Medeiros saved two game points, the first with an impressive cross court forehand, but Kunieda went on to again win the point that mattered en route to wrapping up the first set in just 19 minutes.
Kunieda took a 2-0 lead in the second set after completing his opening service game of the set with an ace and with the four-time ITF World Champion and world No.2 now hitting the lines with pin point accuracy he broke the Brazilian’s serve to love to make it 3-0.
The crowd did their very best to lift Medeiros and with the 22-year-old world No. 36 4-0 down in the second set he won the first two points of the next game, much to the delight of many in the stands. Medeiros received even more applause has he earned two game points, bringing shouts of ‘Come on Brazil’. But Kunieda won the next four points, making it 5-0 with the smoothest of inside out backhands.
With Kunieda serving for the match he started with an ace, but Medeiros sparked more applause with a sublime lob that left Kunieda stranded. The Beijing champion made a rare error as he put a forehand into the net and Medeiros placed a backhand own the lone to earn two more game points. Kunieda’s response was another ace and he brought up his first match point with a backhand down the centre of the court.
However, Kunieda’s next two backhands were not so accurate, as Medeiros gained a break point. Another two deuces followed as Medeiros dug deep and he saved another match point with an impressive forehand winner. But his defence was finally found wanting one last time and he couldn’t control a backhand down the line when he faced match point again, allowing Kunieda to seal victory and a place in the second round after 41 minutes of play.
“For the first few games I felt pressure. But the spectators are very nice and then I can enjoy it. Because of London they know tennis,” said Kunieda afterwards. “Of course I have pressure. But I have experience on how to win the Paralympic Games, so I think that is a strength for me.”
Elsewhere, there were some close first round men’s matches, including the all-South American contest between Brazil’s Daniel Rodrigues and Eliecer Oquendo of Colombia that turned in arguably the closest match on the opening day as Rodrigues edged to a 76(6) 57 64 victory to set up a second round match against Reid.
The first men's match of the Paralympic Tennis Event to go to three sets was the contest between Austria's Thomas Mossier and Robinson Mendez of Chile, with Mossier recovering to progress 36 64 62.
Meanwhile, South Africa's Sydwell Mathonsi put in a great effort to take two-time men's singles silver medallist and four-time Paralympic Tennis medallist Stephen Welch to a third set after snatching a second set tie-break, but Welch eventually prevailed 62 67(8) 61.
Welch's compatriot Jon Rydberg also had to come from a set down before outlasting Argentina's Agustin Ledesma to win 67(7) 63 61.
Follow the scores from the Paralympic Tennis Event on the Schedule page.