Johannesburg, South Africa - Having Japanese wheelchair tennis star Shingo Kunieda travelling to South Africa next month to play in two tournaments in Gauteng, will be a major boost for the sport locally said Karen Losch, General Manager of Wheelchair Tennis South Africa.
Japanese, Shingo Kunieda with his eyes on the ball.
Losch added that Kunieda was an “inspirational world number one player with an impressive string of successes behind his name, and that his participation would “inspire local players and give the game in South Africa as well as both tournaments a major boost.
Kunieda last week confirmed his entry into next month’s Airports Company South Africa sponsored Gauteng Open and SA Open. Both tournaments form part of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour. The first tournament would be staged in Benoni from 3-7 April whilst the second would be held at the grand old lady of tennis, Ellis Park in Johannesburg from the 9-13 April.
Twenty nine year old Kunieda is the reigning Australian Open champion and arrives in the country unbeaten in 2013 and having won three titles this year (Sydney, Melbourne and Rotterdam). Kunieda is the gold medal winner from last year’s London Paralympics and current NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters title holder. Due to a tumor in his spinal cord from when he was 9, he is paralyzed in the lower half of his body. He started his Wheelchair Tennis career aged 11 and joined the international tour circuit at 17 years old. Eight years later aged 25 he became Japan’s first professional Wheelchair Tennis player and won single’s gold at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games as well double’s gold at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.
Kunieda was honoured by the ITF as the World Wheelchair Tennis Champion from 2007 to 2010, the first player ever to have won the world title for four straight years.
Speaking from his home in Chiba, Japan, Kunieda said he was excited to be travelling to South Africa. “I am looking forward to playing my first South Africa tournament. I am hard at work preparing for the tournaments. I am playing well and I have great confidence and will try to get the titles.”
The Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open is a Grade 1 event with the Airports Company South Africa SA Open being the first Super Series event played in the country.