US Open has now ended and we gained the chance to have a direct interview with wheelchair tennis player Yui Kamiji!
Succeeding to clear the rankings required to enter the Australian Open, Yui Kamiji has become a far greater player since the last interview , and now tells us her enthusiasm towards next year’s Australian Open.
YUI KAMIJI PROFILE
DOB: April 24th 1994
Height: 143 cm
Dominant Hand: Left
Born in Hyogo prefecture, Yui Kamiji had hereditary disorder, and began playing wheelchair tennis at the age of 11. She became Japan ranking number 1 at the age of 14. From 2008-2011 she achieved an amazing result of holding the Japan national championships for 4 years, and still continuing her records until present. In 2012, she entered the Grand Slam tournament for the first time at the Australian Open. At the age of 18, she entered the London Paralympics.
© Akira Ando
On the last interview session at the London Paralympics, you declared to be in the quarter finals and successfully achieved the goal.
Actually, I haven’t spoken about this declaration to the other media (laugh). I feel like I enjoyed the Paralympic more than anyone else.
You lost against Anik Van Koot (2), however, by examining the scores it seemed like you could have won the game.
Looking back to my senses and the scores at that time, I still believe it was the most competitive match of all although I am sure that it was not a winnable game.
Graduating in March this year, you now have more time to concentrate on the sport and have improved your status, as well as entering the Grand Slam tournament. Looking back at the season what do you feel?
The result seems too good to be true and makes me feel a little nervous (laugh). It wasn’t planned to be like this. I won against Van Koot for the first time in March. I won the Super Series in May and I also won the tournaments at Paris in June and Saint Louis in August. Although my present ranking is 4th, I still don’t believe I have the ability required to be placed in that rank (laugh).
For the top 10 players, I still have many tasks to clear however I also think I can match with them at equal level. I did say my goal for this year was to be in one digit ranking, and I also thought it would be great if I can enter the Grand Slam next year from Australian Open (laugh). I did not have Gland Slam in my schedule.
At the French Open, it was a win over defeating the top 2 players, Sabine Ellerbrock (1) and Van Koot (2).
Tracking back my memories and checking the videos of the match, I was able to hit deep balls and my condition was good with the matchup against Van Koot. However she was less powerful than usual and her condition seemed poor.
The match with Ellerbrock was a full set however I had a lot of influence from the previous match, which allowed me to feel more determined to win rather than to worry about defeat. Looking at the match video, I wasn’t playing too well though…….
In the last interview you told us, you lost against Ellerbrok at your first Australian Open, but winning against her in an away match gave you confidence.
Ellerbrock is higher rank than me, and there are also Van Koot and Jiske Griffioen (3) above me, but out of these 3 players, it is easier for me to shift my play style to full potential when versing against Ellerbrok.
3rd win at Saint Louis Super Series was also a full set win against Van Koot.
I don’t know if the previous match has influenced her play but her serving accuracy was quite poor at this match which helped me a lot. In France, her condition was very poor in all aspects and her mental status had frequent ups and downs which allowed me to win the match without having competitive scores. At Saint Louis her motivation was back but she missed her serves in critical moments and couldn’t raise her tension which slowly took us apart. Coach
For the doubles this season, you have chosen Ellerbrock and Jordanne Whiley (8) as your partner, but did you already have a plan on which player to choose?
At the moment I seemed to play well together with Whiley as we are similar age. But recently I choose depending on details such as present ranking and the qualification of the Grand Slam pre-finals. For Whiley, her singles ranking could not determine if she can enter the Grand Slam definitely so I paired with Ellerbrock at the recent American open. Although after the Wimbledon grand final Whiley invited me to join her at the next doubles masters so I am prepared to pair with her at the next tournament.
© Akira Ando
How many tournaments do you have left for this year?
I am scheduled to compete in Hiroshima in October, World Masters (Singles and Doubles) at the start of November, and Japan National Tournament in December.
At the Japan National Tournament, you are alleged to win the 6th championship.
There are people who can only see me maybe once a year in the East Japan Tournaments, therefore I strongly wish to perform my best play. It’s a tournament that rounds up the whole year.
At the moment your lifestyle is mostly concentrated with tennis. What is your schedule for the week at the moment?
On week days I have 2 hour private training with coach Chikawa in the evening and afternoon. Sometimes there are group lessons. Once a week there is a night lesson at a different place and 2 group lessons per week in a pool. Basically, it’s a day off on the weekend but sometimes I have meetings with the people from the tennis authorization. On my complete day off I often just sleep (laugh).
At present, are you able to tour the tournaments relying on prize money and sponsors?
Gradually I can. The money I won at the campaign from May to July, I use for the campaign in September, and so on. I can’t completely keep the system at the moment but putting aside the money from campaigns and sponsors, I’m gradually having less difficulty with my own money.
Goals for 2014?
Win one of the Grand Slam Tournaments.
Is the schedule for the Australian Open campaign held in January already decided?
I’m having difficulty choosing between 2weeks or 3weeks for the stay. If I choose 2 weeks, I have 2 tournaments to compete in Melbourne including the Australian Open, and if I choose 3 weeks, I’m thinking of entering the tournament in Sydney before I arrive in Melbourne. At the Australian open I hope to compete in the final.
You have competed in all the Grand Slams. How do you feel?
The surface I like is clay court and I like France. But the hospitality seemed to be a lot more stable at the American Open. (Although it’s a Australian interview) I’m sorry I couldn’t relate my topic to the Australian Open, but because my first Grand Slam debut was here and I moved up the tournament in such pace that I cannot remember most of the events which happened during the tournament, so I will have trouble answering if someone asked (laugh).
By getting used to the Grand Slam tournament, are you now able to enjoy the situation?
Yes I think so. For example the last American Open, my rank allowed me to enter the tournament directly, which took the anxiety of not knowing the result until the very end. By that means it has definitely become easier to tour the tournament.
The 2020 Olympic Paralympics is due to be held in Tokyo, are you still going to continue playing until then?
I will be 26 years old in 2020 and I believe it is still an eligible age to play this sport. Also, To all the people who encouraged me, it is the best stage to show my play so I am strongly determined to participate. But at the moment my big goal is Rio de Janeiro.
To conclude the interview, do you have any message you will like to give to our readers?
My participation in the Australian Open next year is nearly decided! I would like all to observe my improved play, and for the people who see me for the first time, I wish to play a game that everyone can feel enjoyable to watch. I hope to see you at the grounds.
* The ranks shown in the brackets “()” are from September 16th 2013.
Invterviewer: Raito Hino / Translator: Masahide Arakane