Great Britain’s Alfie Hewett sealed his place in the Wimbledon wheelchair singles semi-finals for the second straight year yesterday after a 7-6(3), 6-4 victory over Frenchman Stephane Houdet at the All England Club.
Cheered on by an enthusiastic home crowd, world No.2 Hewett reversed the result from their match in the Surbiton Invitational warm-up event last week. The 20-year-old edged a difficult first set against the big-serving Frenchman, winning the last four points of the tiebreak.
Houdet continued to prove dangerous in the second set, but Hewett upped his level to come back from 2-0 down and earn his third win over world No.4 Houdet in their last four matches.
“I found it tough,” said Hewett. “The score line says pretty much how the match went, a couple of points in it. I felt like it was a pretty similar match to last week at Surbiton when I played him, the only difference then was that the big points went in his favour and this week the big points went in my favour.”
“I think we both held our serves quite well and it was tough to break each other’s serve. But to finally get out there and play my first match and to get the win in straight sets, I’m relieved and happy about.”
Hewett’s win was played out in an electric atmosphere on Wimbledon’s Court 17 as the British crowd got behind him.
“It was an incredible atmosphere. I had a lot of family and friends here today and I think there is going to be even more tomorrow so I’m glad that I’ve got another singles match to play for them to get behind me and obviously the doubles as well. I always look forward to this and get excited about it, I’ve been buzzing for about 2 weeks now.”
The British No.1’s reward is a semi-final against defending champion Stefan Olsson of Sweden. Having won the inaugural Fever-Tree Championships tournament at Queens last month, the Swede continued to demonstrate his affinity to playing on grass with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Nicolas Peifer of France.
On facing Olsson, Hewett added: “He’s got to the final the last two years and won it last year so his game style really suits the surface. He’s a tough competitor and player to beat, but I’m trying to focus on myself – that’s one of my goals this week, to try and not focus on anyone else and what’s happening on the other side of the draw, just to focus on what I do best and my game and mentality. I know that if I play the way I can play then I can beat him.”
Elsewhere, Gordon Reid’s bid to regain the Wimbledon men’s singles title he won in 2016 ended early when he lost out to Belgium’s Joachim Gerard. Gerard’s serve again proved a potent weapon as he advanced 6-3, 6-2.
Speaking after the match, Reid said: “It was tough, Jo I thought played a good match and I thought we played it more on his terms. He served well especially in the big moments which made it difficult for me.”
In the Ladies’ Singles, Lucy Shuker bowed out to world No.3 Aniek van Koot. Despite saving two set points in the first set, Shuker was never quite able to recover from a slow start and van Koot booked her place in the semi-finals 6-2, 6-1.
“I think Aniek played some really good tennis, she was really sensible with her slice and didn’t give me very many cheap points, so that was tough” the British No.1 said after the match. “Obviously for me with my movement singles is incredibly difficult on the grass, I struggle with those last second adjustments because I’m so strapped in with my chair, but you know it’s a love hate relationship for me here at Wimbledon – I love being here and it’s an absolute honour and I hate that I never seem to play my best tennis. You can’t not love being at this place, you know there’s so much history here. I just wish that I played better in a singles match on the grass courts”.
Shuker will be aiming to reverse the result against van Koot as they face each other in the doubles on Friday. The Briton partners Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock as they team up at Wimbledon for the fifth year in a row, with van Koot playing with her compatriot Marjolein Buis.
Despite the singles defeat, Shuker remains rightly upbeat ahead of the doubles after some excellent performances this year, adding “I’m very excited for the doubles. I think Sabine and I have a real good chance, she’s playing really well. Her singles match was good and I think together using our angles and our drop shots as well, hopefully that will put us in a good place.”
Friday’s second day of wheelchair tennis competition at Wimbledon also sees Hewett and Reid in men’s doubles action. The British duo face Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez and Shingo Kunieda of Japan in the semi-final as they aim for a hat-trick of Wimbledon doubles titles
Both players are looking forward to the chance to reach another final together, with Reid saying “It’s exciting to get out in doubles with Alfie here again. We’ve had good results here for the last couple of years so hopefully we can keep that momentum going tomorrow.”
To find out more about wheelchair tennis, or any of the British players, visit the Tennis Foundation website at www.tennisfoundation.org.uk.