Wheelchair wrap: Kamiji and Whiley seal third AO doubles title

  • Reem Abulleil

Yui Kamiji was in tears on Friday as she celebrated winning a third Australian Open wheelchair doubles title with her partner Jordanne Whiley, who picked up her first Grand Slam trophy since becoming a mother.

Kamiji and Whiley, who have now captured 10 Grand Slam titles together, posted a 6-2, 6-4 victory over top seeds Diede de Groot and Aniek van Koot in a 90-minute battle that took place in challenging weather conditions.

The unseeded Japanese-British pair needed 90 minutes to overcome the Dutch No.1 seeds after a delayed start to the match due to soaring temperatures.  

“It’s really good to be back, I’ve only been back 11 months after having a baby so I’m so pleased I’ve won this with Yui and that I’m back with Yui. Thank you to the Japanese fans, I feel like I’m half Japanese, arigato,” said the 27-year-old Whiley, whose last Grand Slam triumph had come at Wimbledon 2017. She was 11 weeks pregnant with her son Jackson at the time.

Kamiji was emotional during the trophy ceremony, and expressed how grateful she is to have her long-time doubles partner back with her in the winners circle.

“It’s always difficult to speak after an English person,” laughed Kamiji.

“I’m just very happy to be with you on the court again and that you’re playing with me again,” she said while choking back tears.

Kamiji and Whiley went up a double-break 4-1 early on. The Dutch pair got one of the breaks back but their opponents regained their advantage, winning a 68-shot rally to go up 5-2. Kamiji, a Paralympic singles bronze medallist, served out the set in style to take a one-set lead after 35 minutes of play.

The Japanese-British duo opened up a 5-3 gap in the second set and that service break was all they needed to wrap up a hard-fought win.

Kamiji’s Australian Open is not over yet as she takes on Van Koot in the singles final on Saturday. The 25-year-old Japanese has now won 15 Grand Slam doubles titles, including five at the Australian Open.

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Diede de Groot and Aniek van Koot in action during the final

In the men’s wheelchair doubles final, British No.2 seeds Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid defeated French top seeds Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer 4-6, 6-4, [10-7] in two hours on Court 3 to lift their first Australian Open doubles crown together.

Hewett had lost the Australian Open 2017 doubles final to Reid and his then partner Joachim Gerard and was visibly emotional as he hugged his teammate to celebrate their victory on Friday.

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“From a personal note, this is a great win, as a team we had not managed to get our hands on this trophy yet. Possibly could have been my last chance. We’ve had a really good Australian tour, with our three titles and I hope we can carry this form through the rest of the year,” said the 22-year-old Hewett, who won the doubles Paralympics silver medal in Rio 2016 with Reid.

Like Kamiji, Reid is going for the double here in Melbourne as he takes on top seed Shingo Kunieda of Japan in the singles final on Saturday.