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Elbow surgery disrupted wheelchair tennis star Kunieda's preparations for Rio

Wheelchair tennis player Shingo Kunieda looks down at the ground after being defeated in the Rio Paralympics men's singles quarterfinal at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, on Sept. 13, 2016. (Mainichi Photography/Noriko Tokuno)

RIO DE JANEIRO (Sponichi) -- Two-time defending Paralympic wheelchair tennis champion Shingo Kunieda's crushing defeat in the men's singles quarterfinal at the Rio Paralympics came after taking a month off from tennis due to elbow surgery and rehabilitation.

    The seven-time Grand Slam singles champion was unable to get back to top form before losing to Belgium's Joachim Gerard in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3. Kunieda struggled to take control of the match against an opponent whom he has dominated 12-2 in the past. Five double faults did not help him, either.

    "I couldn't quite get my playing instinct back. It's very unfortunate that I was unable to play my style," Kunieda commented after the match on Sept. 13.

    Kunieda had surgery on his right elbow in April this year and the pain came back two months later, but he claimed that his elbow was fine during the match. Because he took a whole month off from tennis due to treatment and rehabilitation, however, Kunieda failed to prepare for the right conditions at the Paralympics.

    "It has been a tough year," Kunieda said. Since he clinched Grand Slam singles titles in Australia, France and the U.S. in 2014 and 2015, Kunieda hinted at his frustration, saying, "I thought to myself repeatedly that it would have been different if the Paralympics had taken place last year."

    Kunieda and his doubles partner Satoshi Saida lost the men's doubles semifinal 6-2, 6-4, to a British pair. Kunieda's chance to win a medal at the Rio Paralympics is now left to the bronze medal match on Sept. 15 (Rio time).

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