ITF Press Release, December 22, 2020
Japan’s Shingo Kunieda, Diede De Groot of the Netherlands and Australian Dylan Alcott have ended the 2020 season as the ITF UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour’s year-end world No.1s.
Kunieda, who regains the year-end top spot from Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez in 2020, has now held the year-end No.1 ranking in nine seasons, second only to Esther Vergeer’s record of 13 consecutive seasons from 2000-2012. For De Groot, this marks the third year in succession she has topped the rankings at the end of the season, while it is the fifth year that Alcott has ended the year as world No.1 after doing so in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019.
Kunieda became the most decorated wheelchair tennis Grand Slam champion in history in 2020, equalling Esther Vergeer’s 44 singles and doubles major titles with victory at the Australian Open before setting a new record with his 45th at the US Open.
Shingo Kunieda said: “I am excited to be back as year-end world No.1 for the first time since 2018. This is a challenging year for everybody, but I really appreciate the ITF and all tournament organisers for making the Wheelchair Tennis Tour happen despite the difficult circumstances. I cannot wait for the 2021 season and the Tokyo Paralympics!”
De Groot, began the year having won seven of the eight women’s singles and doubles Grand Slam titles in 2019, as well as the NEC Wheelchair Singles Masters and UNIQLO Doubles Masters. She competed exclusively at the majors in 2020, defending her US Open singles and Roland Garros doubles crowns.
Diede De Groot said: “It has been such a strange year for all of us. I am happy to maintain my No.1 position, but I am also aware it hasn’t been under normal circumstances. I think we are all looking forward to more tournaments and more matches in 2021.”
Alcott became the first quad player to claim 10 Grand Slam singles titles with his sixth Australian Open triumph in January, adding an 11th when he defended his Roland Garros crown. He finished the year with a 18-1 singles win-loss record, with his only defeat coming in the US Open final, where he finished runner-up to Netherlands’ Sam Schroder.
Dylan Alcott said: “In such a strange year, it is a massive honour to finish the year as world No.1. A big thanks to my team and everyone who supports me. I also want to send my love to everyone who has done it tough in 2020. Let’s hope we can all keep working together and get ready for a – hopefully – brighter 2021!”
ITF President David Haggerty commended the trio, and said: “Congratulations to Dylan Alcott, Diede De Groot and Shingo Kunieda for ending the year as world No.1s on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour rankings. They have all provided memorable moments despite the many challenges faced this year. We look forward to seeing them in action in 2021, on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour, at the Grand Slams and at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.”
With playing opportunities in 2020 curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the ITF modified the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour ranking criteria to provide fairness to players to the greatest extent possible, while also keeping the familiar concept of the rankings. Considerations were also made to ensure a fair approach for qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games that recognises results achieved during the original qualification period.
As a result, the ranking period is currently extended back to March 2019 and will rise to 104 weeks by March 2021. Players’ rankings are currently comprised of their best seven (quad), eight (women’s) or nine (men’s) results in that time, with only the best result taken from each tournament in instances where it has been played twice. The temporary measure, introduced when play resumed at the 2020 US Open, will taper off and return to a standard 52-week ranking by March 2022.