LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: Shingo Kunieda of Japan created history in the last match of the London 2012 Paralympic Tennis Event on Saturday night when he became the first player to win back-to-back men’s singles titles after beating world No. 1 and top seed Stephane Houdet of France 64 62.
Houdet served first and had Kunieda racing all over the court, often to no avail, and after a string of deuces the Frenchman took the first game, while Kunieda also held his own first service game with relative ease.
Kunieda broke Houdet with his second break point in the third game to take the lead for the first time and his speed, accuracy and relentless pressure on Houdet proved to be big factors as he stretched his lead to 4-1.
A double fault from Kunieda gave Houdet a glimmer of hope in the sixth game and while Houdet put away a trademark huge forehand winner for the first of two advantage points on Kunieda’s serve, it was not until after several more deuces that the French world No.1 managed to break back.
Houdet continued his fight back and one of the most remarkable servers on the tour served out to love to make it 4-3, only for Kunieda to make it 5-3.
In the next game Houdet put a backhand into the next to give Kunieda his first set point, but the Frenchman managed stay in the game and the set after a sensational cross court backhand. Kunieda went on to have two more set points and on the third Houdet scooped back a backhand that landed right on Kunieda’s baseline before he finally saved the set with a cross court forehand winner.
A backhand down the line from Kunieda brought him two more set points in the next game and on the second one – the Japanese player’s fifth set point in total - Houdet just about managed to get his racket on the ball, but not enough to control its direction and it shot high and wide to give Kunieda the set 6-4 in 50 minutes
Kunieda broke Houdet in the first game of the second set and then held his serve to love to move 2-0 ahead, but Houdet was rewarded for his resilience as he got his first game of the second set on his second advantage point.
The rally of the match came in the fourth game of the second set, bringing appreciative applause from the crowd as Kunieda brought up two more game points, putting away a forehand winner to re-establish a two game cushion 3-1.
After a service hold for either player, two doubles faults from Houdet didn’t help his cause and he missed with a cross court backhand to hand Kunieda a 5-2 lead, with just one more game needed for victory,
From two points down in the last game of the match Kunieda drew level with a forehand winner and Houdet missed with a backhand return to give Kunieda his first match point. The Frenchman saved it with a forehand winner from the net and his defences proved strong over the next few points. However, Kunieda brought up another match point with a forehand winner and Houdet failed to connect cleanly with his next forehand. It soared way out over Houdet’s baseline to give Kunieda victory in an hour and 24 minutes to a great chorus of cheers from the Japanese fans, who cheered even louder a few second later as Kunieda paraded the Japanese flag around Centre Court.
"I'm tired, but I've done well. It's quite unbelievable. January and February was a hard time for me,” said Kunieda, referring to the elbow injury that required surgery earlier this year. “I worked hard so I could come and win. It was my dream to come here and it's become a reality.
”Today I came and played my tennis, the best that I could do. And now I have a gold medal, the best thing that I could ever have. Yesterday I had a day off, but yesterday I was also more tense. Today I was relaxed and determined to do my best.
"This is one year and one day since I got married. My family members are here and usually I am absent and this has been a good opportunity for my family to see me play."
Review the scores from the Paralympic Tennis Event on the Schedule page.