Shingo Kunieda (Men’s/No. 1 world ranking) and Yui K…">

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2018.12.17

Introducing Japan’s Top Wheelchair Tennis Players (Part II - Women’s -)

Japan, home to Shingo Kunieda (Men’s/No. 1 world ranking) and Yui Kamiji (Women’s/No. 2 world ranking) is a wheelchair tennis powerhouse. However, Kunieda and Kamiji are not the only wheelchair tennis players that are expected to do well at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. Here, we will introduce the top wheelchair tennis players you’ll want to keep an eye on for 2020, both in the Men’s and Women’s as well as the Quad Class events.

Women’s



Momoko Otani – “My goal for next year is to get into the top 10 in the world rankings”

No. 19 World Ranking
One wheelchair tennis player whose performance at the Tokyo Paralympics is hotly anticipated. Won a bronze medal at the Asian Para Games. Competed in the Wheelchair Tennis Doubles Masters alongside Manami Tanaka.

“Sometimes I prioritize my matches over my classes at university, but oftentimes I can’t play a match because I have a class or test on the same day. I think my ranking right now is because I haven’t been able to play as many matches as I’d like. Next season I want to play more matches and break into the top 10.”

Born on August 24, 1995 (23 years old) / From Tochigi Prefecture / Paraplegia and paralysis of the right upper extremity due to medication side effects



Manami Tanaka – “I want to be able to win with my own brand of tennis”

No. 10 World Ranking
Currently the second best player in Japan, following Yui Kamiji, in the world rankings. Competed for the first time as part of the Japan national team at the 2016 World Team Cup. This season, she competed for the first time at the Wheelchair Tennis Doubles Masters alongside Momoko Otani.

“This year I was able to beat some high-ranked players, and even made it into the top 10 in the world rankings. Next year my goal is to break the top 7, so I can qualify for the Grand Slam tournaments. The environment for women’s wheelchair tennis is really good in Japan right now, since we can see what we need for the world stage right here in the country.”

Born June 10, 1996 (22 years old) / From Saitama Prefecture / Spinal cord injury and paraplegia due to a fall



Saki Takamuro – “This year I was able to up the general standards for my tennis”

No. 25 World Ranking
A promising wheelchair tennis player, from the same generation as Manami Tanaka and Momoko Otani. Selected to be part of the Japan national team for this year’s World Team Cup. Began playing wheelchair tennis at 19 years old, and competed in the Masters for the first time in 2016, at 21 years old.

“I think next year is when everyone will start vying for the points needed to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics, so this year my goal was to just up the general standards for my tennis, and focus more on putting in the practice instead of playing in matches. I also made sure to compete in lower-tier tournaments and rack up wins so that I don’t get into the habit of losing.”

January 2, 1995 (23 years old) / From Saitama Prefecture / Functional impairment of both legs due to a congenital disease



Shiori Funamizu – “I was able to become the No. 1 junior player, which was my wish for so long”

No. 24 World Ranking / No. 1 Junior Ranking
Competed as part of the Japan junior national team at the 2016 World Team Cup. This year, became No. 1 in the junior world rankings despite also studying for university entrance exams. Currently the most highly anticipated wheelchair tennis player in Japan.

“It was a hard year, having to balance tennis with studying for my entrance exams, but I’m glad I was able to fulfill the goal I set out when I first began wheelchair tennis—to become No. 1 in the junior rankings. After I enter university I’ll prioritize my academics and try to balance it with tennis as much as possible, and see if I can make it into the Tokyo Paralympics.”

Born November 8, 2000 (18 years old) / From Chiba Prefecture / Spinal cord injury due to an accident while exercising



Kanako Domori – “I’m currently working towards a more aggressive style of tennis”

No. 23 World Ranking
Competed in the Beijing 2004 Paralympics, the London 2012 Paralympics, and the Rio 2016 Paralympics. Long-time wheelchair tennis player who is a regular at the Masters. Has also competed many times at the World Team Cup, etc. as part of the Japan national team.

“I’ve gotten to be somewhat of a long-timer, but this year I decided to change up my forms and movements and try to play a more modern style of tennis. With the Masters I don’t have to worry about points [for the rankings], so it’s a good place to test out what I’ve been practicing.”

Born on June 18, 1975 (43 years old) / From Shizuoka Prefecture / Spinal cord injury due to illness



Mie Fukazawa – “I’ve returned to competitive play for my work in wheelchair tennis”

No. 60 World Ranking
Came in 4th in the Doubles event at the Athens 2004 Paralympics. Competed in the Beijing 2008 Paralympics. Was the top women’s wheelchair tennis player in Japan before Yui Kamiji became the highest-ranked player in the country. Won the Masters six times in a row in the past.

“I’ve heard people say I’ve made a ‘comeback,’ but I don’t really see all that much into it. I just thought as someone who teaches wheelchair tennis to kids and who does work related to it, that I should at least be able to stay competitive to some extent, and so last year I started playing matches again.”

May 21, 1970 (48 years old) / From Fukushima Prefecture / Spinal cord injury due to a car accident



Emi Suda – “I want to see how well I can play against the high-ranked players”

No. 63 World Ranking
This is her fourth time competing in the Masters. Finds time to train while also taking care of household chores.

“My goal is to compete in the Masters. This tournament will let me go against players who compete on the world stage, so I’m excited to see how far I can make it against them.”

Born July 10, 1960 (58 years old) / From Miyagi Prefecture / Loss of half her right thigh due to a car accident



Yumiko Inoue – “I want to play the best tennis that I can”

No. 32 World Ranking
Began playing wheelchair tennis at 43 years old. Became employed by a company as an athlete with impairment last November, and has since spent her time mainly on wheelchair tennis.

“Now that I practice more and play in more matches, I feel I can really compete to a certain extent. I consider the Masters to be a kind of testing ground, where I can see how much of what I’ve been doing is reflected in my game.”

Born on November 20, 1959 (59 years old) / From Gifu Prefecture / Amputation of both lower extremities due to an accident

* Rankings are as of December 3, 2018
* This article was written based on interviews at the 28th All-Japan Selected Wheelchair Tennis Masters, held on December 7-9, 2018

text by Tomoko Sakai
photo by Haruo Wanibe

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