Yui Kamiji and Diede De Groot's rivalry will hit the lawns of Wimbledon
By Gemma-Louise Stevenson
Last Updated: 11/07/18 11:04am
Federer and Nadal, Navratilova and Evert, McEnroe and Borg - over the years Wimbledon has seen it's fair share of great rivalries.
If the top two seeds in the women's wheelchair singles draw see the results go their way, the All England Club could get its first taste of another classic head to head between Japan's Yui Kamiji and the Netherlands Diede De Groot.
Defending singles champion De Groot and four-time doubles title winner Kamiji are no stranger to fighting it out for the title.
In fact, every Grand Slam final of 2018 so far has featured their names on the scoreboard - the Dutch dynamo claiming the Australian Open title and Roland Garros glory belonging to the current clay court queen from Japan.
But first they must make their way through a tough draw in the women's open division, which also features two previous finalists, the Netherlands Aniek Van Koot and Germany's Sabine Ellerbrock.
"Grass is always a difficult surface and it's not something we play tennis on a lot," De Groot told Sky Sports.
"So I think it will be difficult for both of us as it's a different game than normal. But if we meet it would be in the final and if that happens I think it will be just as good a rivalry as always - intense."
It's a rivalry Kamiji equally respects: "Every time we play it's a close match and it's difficult to get a point or win for both of us but I like to play against Diede, it's very tough but it's also very fun."
As well as a potential singles head-to-head, the pair will also be in doubles action, where Kamiji will be looking to claim her fifth straight doubles title at SW19 having won her previous four with Britain's Jordanne Whiley by her side.
"It's a new pair so it will feel fresh," Kamiji said. "We've never played on a grass court together so let's see what happens.
"Jordy isn't playing this year but I know she's coming so maybe she'll help me and cheer for me, I hope," she said laughing.
"It's good for tennis"
The beginning of 2018 has seen the world no 1 ranking switch between the two women continuously, De Groot occupies top spot going into Wimbledon and with less than 200 points between the pair it looks set to continue like that for a little while longer.
As the winner of last years singles title, De Groot has a lot of ranking points to defend going into this years draw.
"It's a very different week for me this year because it is the first time I have to defend a Grand Slam title," she said. "I'm not the underdog anymore like last year so there is a different pressure on me and I do feel like I need to perform well."
However, she loves having an on court rival in Kamiji because it pushes her and means she is continually developing her game.
"I think all the matches we have played against each other have been different so each training, each day basically I'm trying to get better and make sure I'm ready for those kind of tough matches," De Groot continued.
"I think it's really good for me, I think it's good for her as well and it's good for tennis because it shows just how much the level is going up."
So it's a De Groot/Kamiji singles final?
A look at the head-to-head between Kamiji and De Groot falls firmly in the Japanese world no 2's favour (12-6) but that doesn't tell the full story as grass courts provide a different challenge for wheelchair tennis players, who predominantly play on hard courts throughout the year.
And with other players who have had historically strong results at Wimbledon in the mix, such as Van Koot, it's not a given that either of the world's top two women's players will make it all the way.
Whilst on the Wimbledon doubles court Kamiji has dominated over the last few years, the best singles court form belongs to De Groot, who in her debut year at the Championships in 2017 made it all the way to the final and lifted her first ever Grand Slam singles title there with Kamiji bowing out in the semi-finals to Ellerbrock last year.
However, at last weeks warm-up tournament in Surbiton, it was clear to see that the world no 2 had been working on her grass court game.
In the match between her and De Groot, whose style of play really suits the surface with its emphasis on powerful serving and finishing off the point quickly, she came out on top after a super tie-break 4-6, 6-2, 10-5
So the potential is there for Kamiji to go one better than in 2017 and you should never rule out De Groot making it to a final of a major tournament.
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