In a thrilling match in the Ariake Coloessum Friday night, Takuya Miki and Daisuke Arai defeated Tokito Oda and Yudai Kawai to win the doubles title at the Rakuten Japan Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships.
The top seeds earned a 6-4, 7-6(4) victory by combining consistency with well-timed aggression down the stretch after seeing a match point go begging on serve at 5-4 in the second set. Though it was their first title as a team, the Japanese veterans used their doubles experience to defeat their teenage opponents.
"Such an amazing title for us, in front of the home crowd," Miki said in a post-match press conference. "We felt so nervous. But the audience, they were clapping and they cheered us up. That's why we could build our motivation to win and gradually become more comfortable to play and enjoy it."
Aggressive throughout, the top seeds earned the chance to serve out the match when Miki fired a sharp, cross-court winner on break point. But strong play from Oda in the following game kept his team in the match, as the 16-year-old hit a brave volley winner to save match point and followed it with a roped return winner to level at 5-5.
Miki and Arai were the steadier pair in the tie-break, which they controlled throughout to claim their first ITF doubles title as a pair.
"For us it's a big title, because it's Tokyo," said Arai.
The title is Miki's 32nd ITF doubles trophy overall and Arai's 12th. Both men are inside the Top 20 in the wheelchair rankings for both singles and doubles. Miki is the doubles World No. 18 and a career-high No. 6 in singles, while Arai sits at No. 13 in doubles at No. 6 in singles — both career-highs.
The pair reached the final with a 6-0, 6-0 win against Satoshi Saida and Shogo Tokano.
Asked to describe the key to victory in the title match, Arai said: "Teamwork and friendship. Sometimes we have dinner together, and we have the same hobby, taking photos."
In good spirits, Miki jokingly replied: "How sweet!"
Photo Credit: Hiroshi Sato