Daisuke ARAI – Wheelchair Tennis


Daisuke Arai was born in Tokyo and works for BNP Paribas. He has a congenital tibial deficiency of the right lower leg and has been using a prosthetic leg since the age of two. He began playing soft tennis with a prosthetic leg in junior high school and served as a captain of the soft tennis club in both junior high school and technical college.

He encountered wheelchair tennis when he was working as a salesperson for an assistive device manufacturer. He started participating in overseas matches as a BNP Paribas player in 2017. He won singles titles in six tournaments in 2019, including the Slovakia Open and the Taipei Open, which racketed his world ranking. Then, he was selected to represent Japan at the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2021.

Continuing to steadily improve his rankings, he participated in the Grand Slam Australian Open followed by the French Open for the first time in 2023. His world rankings are 10th in singles and 12th in doubles (as of July 10, 2023).

Tennis has changed my life. Connection with others is my asset

It all started in junior high school when I was invited by a friend to join a soft tennis club. I liked sports but was not comfortable showing my prosthetic leg in public or having others look at how I walked. However, by practicing hard with able-bodied teammates and competing evenly in matches on the court, people stopped treating me differently. This greatly changed not only my own but others’ awareness, and I realised that everyone is equal on the court. I was able to take a step forward and also gain confidence. Since then, I have become proactive in meeting various people, listening to their stories and building relationships. This is my most valuable asset, and I still regard connection with people as an important element.

Encountering and evolving with BNP Paribas

One such example is my encounter with BNP Paribas in 2017. In my previous job, I often had to go to the Kyushu area as a sales representative of the area and was troubled by the fact that I could not find time to practice. I decided to quit the company when I lost to the Rio Paralympic silver medalist at a tournament in Australia in 2017. It was when I was trying to figure out how I could aim for greater heights that I encountered BNP Paribas.

After joining BNP Paribas, I was able to focus my time and energy on tennis with the support of the company and was able to travel outside of my prefecture to practice and go on overseas expeditions. What I could do physically had increased but I often felt frustrated not being able to win a single game overseas. I became acutely aware of my inexperience, so I immediately set up an environment where I could receive as much coaching as possible. I started receiving coaching from my current coach, Yoshiyuki Hozumi, in 2019 and have dramatically increased my rankings since then. I was finally able to reach 10th place in the world rankings (as of July 2023) and achieve one of my goals to be ranked within the top ten.

As a BNP Paribas employee, I also participate in employee events and townhall meetings, where company strategies are shared. At the company’s “Year End Party,” I had a lot of fun with other employees such as in the securities code quiz. In fact, I am gaining new awareness and learning from such events and interactions with employees, which can be utilized when I play sports. Looking back, I feel that various encounters I have had have helped me grow even more as a person.

I am never satisfied with my skills. I often practice with Shingo Kunieda, a legend on the world stage. I embolden myself by thinking, “If I can beat him, I can beat anyone,” but he is not an opponent who is easy to overcome. I constantly take on challenges through trial and error, and it gives me great confidence when I find that this works against my opponent. My strength is my backhand shot. I want to further develop this strength and aim for the next level. One of my goals now is to win at the Paralympic Games.

I want to continue taking on challenges forever and realise my dreams

The appeal of sports is the way they enable communication without words and motivate us to take on new challenges. They give a push to those who take the first step and have the power to change lives. I want to convey this to as many people as possible through my performance. This is my dream.

I also want everyone to know the fun of wheelchair sports. Though wheelchair sports still carry the image of being sports for the disabled in Japan, people go to these events purely for the fun of watching matches in Europe and other countries. For athletes, it is very encouraging to have an audience. I want more people to enjoy watching games in Japan. To this end, I will do my best to improve the level of competition of wheelchair tennis and show performances that people will enjoy watching.

As I gain more experience, I feel that I have a mission to pass on my experience to the next generation of players and help them develop, in addition to achieving my own goals. This is one of the things I want to work on from various aspects, including the players’ second careers and the promotion of wheelchair tennis. In 2023, the “Team BNP Paribas Young Talents Japan with JTA,” the first such project in the Asia-Pacific region, was launched in Japan, and I am serving as the ambassador for Japan. Not only good skills but also strong mental strength are necessary in order to become an athlete who can compete with the world. I am thrilled to be able to support the players who will lead the future of wheelchair tennis both physically and mentally, and to be involved in the development of players who will go on to compete on the world stage.

I want to continue taking on challenges not only in sports but also in other fields. People can be who they want to be if they make the effort―they can do anything. Opportunities are everywhere, and I want to be ready to seize them firmly. I therefore try to take an interest in many different things. I will constantly keep an eye out and continue to work hard so that I can seize opportunities when they appear.

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