Paralympic Chammpions Shingo Kunieda and Satoshi Saida (JPN) beat defending champions Michael Jeremiasz (FRA) and Jayant Mistry (GBR) in Sunday's final of the Wimbledon Men's Wheelchair Doubles Masters Series, part of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour.
The Japanese top seeds had started very nervously in their first tournament on grass in Saturday’s semi-finals. However, with the benefit of Saturday’s experience behind them the world’s top two ranked doubles players looked much more assured as they broke Jeremiasz’s serve for the loss of just the first point of the match. However, not to be outdone, Mistry and Jeremiasz more than held their own as the Frenchman’s powerful forehands and Mistry’s deft touches at the net kept them on a par with their opponents.
With the first four games going against the serve in blustery conditions, Jeremiasz managed the first service hold in the fifth game before Mistry’s exquisite net play helped the Anglo-French pairing to a break advantage at 42.
Having come into the match with a 21 lead in doubles head-to-heads against Jermiasz and Mistry, Kunieda and Saida regrouped to up their game and brought the scores back level at 44 and 55 before taking things up another notch as they broke Mistry’s serve. Kunieda then served out the set on the first of two set points.
With their confidence now visibly greater than their opponents, Kunieda and Saida could do little wrong at the start of the second set, a framed smash from Kunieda, bringing them a break advantage. Jeremiasz and Mistry’s first set success had seemingly eluded them and meanwhile, Kunieda and Saida continued to perform solidly and soon opened up a 40 lead, leaving victory in sight. However, with this possibly in mind, they found themselves in trouble in the fifth game of the set as a suddenly resurgent Jeremiasz served a dominant game to love. Nevertheless, Kunieda and Saida recovered to leave them within one game of victory before another dominant service game from Mistry kept the defending champions’ hopes alive.
At 22 and the youngest player on court, World No 2 Kunieda had the task of serving for the match and showed few signs of the nerves as the Japanese pairing earned themselves two match points, just needing the first to wrap up a 75 62 victory much to their obvious delight and that of the sizeable crowd and assembled members of the Japanese media.
“We were very nervous yesterday, but not today and were more focused on what we had to do,” said Saida. “We knew that if we just kept moving and communicating we had the ability to win. This is a very happy moment, one of the best experiences of our lives, and we hope we will come back to defend the title.”
In winning the second Wimbledon Men’s Wheelchair Doubles tournament , Kunieda and Saida have emulated 1975 Ladies Doubles Champion Kazuko Sawamatsu (now Mrs. Kazuko Yoshida), who is vice-president of the Tennis Training Centre in Kashiwa, where both players are based.
A defeated Mistry was understandably disappointed afterwards. “We felt in control in the first set, but at the business end of it we didn’t get enough balls in court. The wind didn’t help, especially on the slower balls, which are hard to pick up on the grass, and we then let them get too far ahead in the second set.”
While Kunieda and Saida were victorious in the final, tournament second seeds Robin Ammerlaan (NED) and Martin Legner (AUT) recovered from Saturday’s semi-final defeat at the hands of Jeremiasz and Mistry on to win the third and fourth place play off.
Ammerlaan and Legner defeated Miroslav Brychta (CZE) and Tadeusz Kruszelnicki (POL) 63 61.
More reports and photos from the Wimbledon Men's Wheelchair Doubles Masters Series can be at The Championships, Wimbledon 2006 Official Website and the BBC Sport Website