Japan's top two wheelchair tennis men will square off in a must-see final on Saturday in Tokyo, with the marquee matchup set for centre stage in the Ariake Colosseum. Shingo Kunieda and Tokito Oda both earned straight-sets wins on Friday to book a rematch of their Roland Garros semi from June, which Kunieda won 6-2, 6-1.
The top seed at the Rakuten Japan Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships, Kunieda advanced to the final with a 6-2, 6-3 victory against World No. 6 Takuya Miki.
"It was a tough match because my opponent knows me very well, and I also know him," the 38-year-old said, noting that the pair often practise together. "It was difficult, but I served well on some key points, so that was the difference."
The second-seeded Oda matched Kunieda's first-round result with a dominant 6-0, 6-0 win against Shogo Tokano. The 16-year-old needed three sets to dismiss Daisuke Arai in the opening round, but found a new gear on Friday in the semis.
"I could keep going [at a high level] and I could keep my serve," he said of his confidence-building performance. "I believe in myself. I want to win tomorrow, and I'm just so excited for tomorrow.
"It's going to be my first time playing in the stadium. Of course, playing against Shingo is going to be really tough, but I'm just so excited. I won't be afraid. I wanted to play there."
Looking ahead to his rematch with Oda, Kuneida was full of praise for his countryman: "He's just 16 years old, so he is growing very fast," he said. "I am looking forward to playing him. Of course, I want to focus on my playing."
Tactically, the 28-time Grand Slam singles champion will look to move his opponent around in an effort to blunt his big game.
"His serve is great. He plays aggressive, powerful," he added. "So I have to control him, [and move him] side to side."
Saturday's final will be the third match on Tokyo's centre court, following the men's singles semi-finals, which begin at 2 p.m.
Photo Credit: Hiroshi Sato