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De Groot claims record 22nd Grand Slam wheelchair singles title


PARIS (AP) — Top-ranked Diede de Groot won a record 22nd Grand Slam wheelchair singles title when she rallied to beat unseeded Zhu Zhenzhen 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the French Open women's final on Saturday.

In the men’s wheelchair final, second-seeded Tokito Oda of Japan successfully defended his title at Roland Garros by winning 7-5, 6-3 against No. 3-seeded Argentine Gustavo Fernandez. It was the 18-year-old Oda's fourth major title.

The 27-year-old De Groot's victory saw her overtake her Dutch compatriot Esther Vergeer for the most women's singles titles.

“Of course I’m really proud to now have this record, but at the same time I know the conditions when Esther played," De Groot said. "She couldn’t play singles at Wimbledon, a lot of the Grand Slams weren’t even called Grand Slams yet. So it’s really not much of a comparison.”

Vergeer had a 470-match winning streak in her career, while De Groot’s unbeaten run ended last month on 145.

“Of course I’m really proud of myself, but I’m mainly just proud of myself for keeping it up like this. But for me, Esther will always have this legacy where for such a long time (she was unbeaten), like, 470 matches. That’s how good she was," De Groot said. “We could be together at the top. I feel like it’s more together instead of which one is better.”

It was also the two-time Paralympic gold medalist De Groot's 14th straight major title.

De Groot features in a TV ad with French car manufacturer Renault, which has been shown on French television during the tournament. She is one of their three brand ambassadors in tennis along with Frenchman Luca Van Assche and No. 21-ranked Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime.

“It’s really important still for us to be visible in those kind of things, because a lot of people don’t know me, and a lot of people don’t know any of the wheelchair athletes that are playing here,” she said. “So we need help from those big brands. I’m really proud of Renault for doing that.”

The 34-year-old Zhu was looking to win her first Grand Slam title and become only the second Chinese player to win a major singles title in any category outside of juniors since two-time major winner Li Na in 2014.

"She did so well considering it’s her first final," De Groot said of her opponent. "She can be really proud of herself."

Oda will now look to defend his Wimbledon title on grass. He has won every major except for the U.S. Open, where he has never been past the quarterfinals.


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