History-maker Alfie Hewett reached his first Wimbledon wheelchair tennis singles semi-final when he opened his campaign for back-to-back Grand Slam singles titles with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Nicolas Peifer of France on Thursday.
Nineteen-year-old Hewett, who became the first Brit to win the men’s singles title at Roland Garros last month, recovered well after dropping the opening set to world No.5 Peifer on the grass. The world No.6 broke the Frenchman’s serve to love to open up a 5-2 second set lead on his way to forcing the decider. Hewett missed the opportunity to go 3-0 ahead in the final set but soon took a commanding 5-1 lead and closed out victory with a forehand smash for his first Wimbledon singles match win after an hour and 34 minutes.
“I came here this week focused on achieving my first singles match win on the grass at Wimbledon and so I’m really happy to have done that after a tough match today,” said Hewett. ”I know I’ve come here as Roland Garros champion but I’m only thinking about preparing for the next match. But after today I can feel confident for the semi-finals and I expect another tough match against Gustavo.”
Hewett now plays Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez in Friday’s semi-finals in a rematch of last month’s Roland Garros final. Hewett came from a set and 2-0 down to win the title at Roland Garros, a performance that has since seen him being voted International Paralympic Committee Athlete of the Month for June.
He keeps alive hopes of a second successive Wimbledon men’s singles title for a player on the Tennis Foundation’s Wheelchair Tennis World Class Programme after last year’s inaugural champion Gordon Reid bowed out to 2016 runner-up Stefan Olsson of Sweden.
Reid was unable to produce the kind of performance that resulted in his historic Wimbledon victory over Olsson last year and Sweden’s world No.7 advanced 6-2, 6-3 to set up a meeting with Japan’s Shingo Kunieda.
Hewett and Reid begin the defence of their men’s doubles title on Friday against Fernandez and Kunieda.
Lucy Shuker and Jordanne Whiley also both begin their doubles campaigns on Friday after bowing out of the ladies’ singles on Thursday.
Shuker kept pace with Japan’s world No.1 Yui Kamiji early in their ladies’ singles quarter-final before Kamiji broke in the sixth game and the Australian Open and Roland Garros champion went on to record a 6-3, 6-1 win.
Meanwhile, Whiley showed tremendous fighting spirit in her women’s singles quarter-final against Dutch world No.3 Diede de Groot. Whiley, a singles semi-finalist in 2016, came back from 5-1 down to force a second set tie-break and saved three match points before de Groot eventually won 6-2, 7-6(4).
Whiley and Kamiji start their bid for a fourth successive Wimbledon ladies’ doubles title on Friday against Dutch top seeds Jiske Griffioen and Aniek van Koot. Whiley and Kamiji have played Griffioen and van Koot in the last four Wimbledon finals and became the first pairing to complete a hat-trick of ladies’ doubles wheelchair tennis titles last year.
Shuker partners Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock in the other ladies’ doubles semi-final as they take on Dutch second seeds Marjolein Buis and de Groot.