Kazuko Yoshida (née Kazuko Sawamatsu) who serves as the vice president of the Japanese Tennis Association, was selected as a Person of Cultural Merit this year according to the government announcement ahead of the Culture Day on November 3.
The former tennis player was born in 1951 in Nishinomiya (Hyogo Prefecture) and raised in a tennis family. At the age of 16 she became the youngest women’s singles champion in history of All Japan Championships.In 1969, she won Roland Garros and Wimbledon (completing the Channel Slam) in girls’ singles and as of today she remains the only one Japanese female player who won a junior Grand Slam title in singles! As well as she is one of the 7 female players who won the French Open-Wimbledon double (Channel Slam) in the junior girls’ singles category, and the only one Japanese (male or female).
She competed in a number of major LTA tournaments in the 1970s on the world circuit. At the 1975 Australian Open, she reached the quarterfinals, as well as reaching the quarterfinals of the French Open and U.S. Open the same year. Mrs Yoshida held still numerous records such as She was nearly unbeatable at home and have a record of 192 consecutive wins in Japan. As well as she was the first Asian female player who reached a semifinal of a Grand Slam in singles (at the Australian Open in 1973). She won the 1975 Wimbledon ladies doubles title with partner Ann Kiyomura and became the first Asian female player who won a Grand Slam title!In November 1975, she won the singles title at the Japan Open Tennis Championships, defeating Kiyomura in the final in three sets and together they won the doubles title. Her strength was a steady and unrivaled hit combined with solid defense. Receiving this award, which is the second highest honor after the Order of Culture, she was recognized for her success on the world stage. Among the 20 people who have been selected as Persons of Cultural Merit, including singer-songwriter Yumi Matsutoya, shogi player Hifumi Kato, kabuki actor Hakuoh Matsumoto, painter Atsushi Uemura.
Mrs Yoshida who was selected as one of this year’s 20 people of cultural merit, told DB4tennis that “I am very surprised and honored to hear the news that I have received the Person of Cultural Merit award.
Until now, I have got tremendous cooperation from many people involved in tennis and the sports world, including the Japan Tennis Association, and I keep working to develop the tennis world.” After retiring, she worked to support and strengthen wheelchair tennis at the Yoshida Memorial Tennis Training Center, which was established by her husband, while working to train female sports instructors. Among them is Shingo Kunieda, who won four gold medals at the Paralympics, including last year’s Tokyo Games. “One of the philosophies of the Yoshida Memorial Tennis Training Center is “Tennis for All”. It means that each person, regardless of gender, age, region, or disability, will enrich their lives through tennis. I would be very happy if we could continue to work with everyone in line with this philosophy. I greatly appreciate this award!” – as Mrs Yosida concluded her first interview after the announcement.