Oda makes history as youngest world No.1

Tokito Oda takes his first Grand Slam title and hails hero Kunieda

Tokito Oda, finale, tennis-fauteil, simple messieurs, Roland-Garros 2023©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT
 - Courtney Walsh

In a city famed for the magnificence of its art, the history-making effort of rising star Tokito Oda in the Roland-Garros men’s wheelchair singles final on Saturday was a masterpiece.

The exciting 17-year-old became the youngest ever men's wheelchair world No.1 by dethroning Great Britain's Alfie Hewett 6-1, 6-4 in a high-stakes final.

At the same time that Dutch superstar Diede De Groot was continuing her dominance of the women’s singles on Court 14, Oda started brilliantly against Hewett on Court Philippe-Chatrier, and showed tremendous nerve to claim his first major title.

“I am feeling like it is the happiest day of my life,” he said.

“I was really happy to get my two dreams on the one day for [being] the youngest player as the No.1 in the world and to win my first Grand Slam title.”

The left-hander dedicated his triumph to his idol Shingo Kunieda, the storied Japanese wheelchair player who retired in January after winning 28 Grand Slam singles titles.

Tokito Oda, Alfie Hewett, Roland-Garros 2023, wheelchair men's singles final© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

A guitar-playing, martial arts fan, Oda said it was special to know Kunieda was now commentating on his own tennis heroics in the final back to a Japanese audience.

“He is a legend for me, but not only for me, but for everybody, for wheelchair tennis, for tennis as well. I am a big fan of his,” Oda said.

“I was sad about his retirement when I heard of it. But now I am making other history after his retirement. I have a little pressure on me … but I will always be myself.”

An impressive journey

Oda, who was born in the Aichi Prefecture in central Japan, was diagnosed with bone cancer in his left hip as a nine-year-old. His career as a wheelchair player began a year later.

He could never have imagined that within seven years he would be playing on Court Philippe-Chatrier with enthusiastic support from Japanese fans.

“The dream when I started to play tennis when I was in hospital, I was watching a lot of matches,” he said.

“I was really looking forward to this stage. It has been seven years, I think. This year we have two more Grand Slams in London and New York and I am looking forward to that.”

Tokito Oda, Roland-Garros 2023, wheelchair men's singles final© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

A bright future

Oda owns an outstanding backhand, which proved pivotal throughout an entertaining final, with none better than a brilliant winner to seize a service break at 5-4 in the second set.

Hewett, a three-time champion at Roland-Garros who defeated his younger rival in the Australian Open final in January, was full of praise for the talented teenager.

“I know this is your first singles Grand Slam and what a way to do it, to be honest,” he said.

“It was simply amazing out there. For a young guy, that was seriously impressive. I am sure there are going to be many more battles and finals ahead.”

Donald Ramphadi, Andy Lapthorne, final, Quad men's doubles, Roland-Garros 2023© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Quad success

Andy Lapthorne helped deliver Donald Ramphadi a prized birthday gift when they combined to win a tight Quad men’s doubles final.

The unseeded combination edged out Australian Heath Davidson and Canadian Robert Shaw 1-6, 6-2, (10-3). It is Ramphadi’s first Grand Slam title.

In a tight men’s Quad singles final, world No. 1 the Netherlands' Niels Vink successfully defended his Roland-Garros title by overcoming compatriot Sam Schroder 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in a rematch of the 2022 final to take his third Grand Slam title.

Vink, a good friend of the recently-retired Quad wheelchair champion Dylan Alcott, said he was motivated to break the Australian's records.

"I'm missing Dylan on tour. It was always good to have him," he said.

"[He was] someone who I looked up to. But now ... hopefully I can beat all his records and be better than he was."

Niels Vink, final, Quad singles, Roland-Garros 2023© Loïc Wacziak/FFT