MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA— What makes a tennis Grand Slam so unique and different from other sporting events might be its diversity across all spectrums.
In addition to the premier men's and women's singles, doubles, and mixed doubles professional events, there is also a full wheelchair tennis junior singles and doubles competition, all happening at the same time in the same venue.
Team Yonex represents a part of this beauty, which is the diversity of tennis.
In the wheelchair competition, both men's and women's players have reached the singles finals with Yonex racquets in their hands. There are also Yonex racquets-wielding players in the doubles draw.
And in juniors – where the future of tennis awaits – Yonex is also showing its power. A total of 40 players (18 boys and 22 girls) have competed across the main draws using Yonex racquets. This is the largest number of players of any racquet manufacturer, with a 31% share of total usage.
Among the players that advanced to the singles quarterfinals, four of the boys and two of the girls are Yonex players.
Absolute queen de Groot has no plans to lose
Diede de Groot (NED) appears to be poised to extend her streak of 13 consecutive Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open this year.
In the semifinals she faced Dutch compatriot Jiske Griffioen (NED), with de Groot sweeping six games in a row after dropping the very first, winning it 6-1 in less than 30 minutes.
The second set started with de Groot being broken, but she broke back the very next game. The 27-year-old’s high bouncing backhand was too much for her opponent to keep up with, producing some of her 26 winners on the day. After taking a break lead in the fifth game, she didn’t look back, winning 6-1, 6-2 to advance to her sixth career AO final (she’s won the previous 5 finals where she appeared).
In the final, she’ll face rival Yui Kamiji (JPN) for a 33rd time, with de Groot leading 25-7.
On the men’s side, Tokito Oda (JPN), who is considered the heir of great champion (and recently-retired) Shingo Kunieda, beat Gordon Reid (GBR) 7-6 (4), 7-5. After the match, the 17-year-old Oda admitted that the ball Reid hit was much deeper and more powerful than their previous match-ups (after Reid had fully recovered from a persistent wrist injury).
Still, the Japanese teen was able to get out of both sets at the important points.
"In the end, winning in straight sets gives me a lot of confidence," Oda said.
In the final, Oda will face world No.1 Alfie Hewett (GBR). Oda lost in the final of the Australian Open a year ago to Hewett, and he’s won their most recent three matches.
“I have a great, good [feeling against Hewett] right now. I don't feel like I'm going to lose... at all."
He's confident of victory.
Japanese rising star moves on to the final four in juniors
Those who know Kei Nishikori and Yonex fellow Yoshihito Nishioka may think that Japanese players are small in stature. However, Rei Sakamoto (JPN), a 6-foot-3 (193 cm) tall player who has been training at the IMG Academy in Florida, may change that image.
He came to Melbourne on a winning streak, having captured the junior event in nearby Traralgon just last week. His strong serve is a weapon that has been improved greatly over the off-season.
“Where has he gotten that good image of a serve? " Nick Kyrgios (AUS) wondered.
Even in the tough third round, Sakamoto dropped only one service game. After the win, he struck his signature pose of holding up his racquets as if it were a Japanese sword. “Samurai Rei” is charting his own path.