Hewett eyes top four after French Open wheelchair title
Britain’s Alfie Hewett is hoping to break into the world’s top four after climbing the rankings following his win at the French Open.
Now ranked number six, equalling his career best, the 19-year-old said he is focused on his next set of tournaments in the lead-up to Wimbledon.
His title in France was the first time a Briton had won a men’s wheelchair singles title at Roland Garros.
“It has given me the confidence that I can do it again,” said Hewett.
‘Top four is the aim’
This time last year, Hewett, from Norwich, was ranked outside the top 10 and was a wildcard entry into Wimbledon, where he claimed the doubles title with fellow Briton Gordon Reid.
“The men’s game is completely open right now,” he said.
“I’ve got no expectations of getting to the top of the rankings by the end of the year because there’s so many great players around who could also be up there. But after my win in France and closing the gap in points, it would be good to get into the top four.”
A top-four ranking would mean he goes into major competitions and Grand Slams as a seeded player.
His historic win in his debut at Roland Garros saw him save three match points before going on to beat defending champion Gustavo Fernandez in three sets.
“Winning the tie-break in the second, and the second set overall, really gave me the confidence going into the third set,” he said.
“It was an emotional tie-break for me but after I’d won it and I could see that Gustavo was starting to tire I started to believe it was my game.”
That was not the first time he has come from behind to win a match. At an ITF1 event in Rotterdam in February he saved nine match points before going on to defeat Japan’s Takuya Miki.
“Once you have that experience of a comeback it just gives you that confidence to know you can do it – and to do it in a Grand Slam final as well was amazing.”
The nickname – ‘iced gem’
Hewett returned home with more than just his first Grand Slam singles title. Thanks to an unfortunate incident at the hairdressers pre-tournament, he also came back with a new nickname.
“It was a bit of a shocker where basically I’ve ended up with a bit more shaved off than I usually do,” he said.
“I got a lot of grief from the team out there because of it and they started calling me iced gem – like the biscuits. I think that’s because of the little whippy bit I have at the top now.”
He is now back on the training courts and preparing for the Open de France tournament.
As well as competing in singles, he will team up again with Scotland’s Reid as they aim to make it to their fourth Super Series doubles final of the year.
Their opponents in their previous three finals have been the French pairing of Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer, who they lost to in the doubles final of this year’s French Open.
In one of the biggest on-court rivalries in wheelchair tennis, Houdet and Peifer currently lead the 2017 Super Series head to head 2-1 but Hewett is confident that should they face them again in the final at the Open de France next week he and Reid can level the score.
“We’re eager to play them again and every time we lose to them it makes us more determined to beat them next time,” he said.
“I had a joke with Stephane that we were going to cause an upset on their home turf. Mind you, I do hope they don’t do that to us at Wimbledon this year.”