Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid will meet in the Australian Open for the first time on Wednesday (25 Jan) when the British No.1 and British No.2 men’s wheelchair players go head-to-head for a place in the semi-finals at the first major of the year.
Top seed Hewett, who started this year’s Australian Open as world No.1 following the retirement of Japan’s Shingo Kunieda over the weekend, took just one hour and 22 mins to beat Daisuke Arai of Japan 6-1, 6-0 in his opening match at Melbourne Park, where his biggest challenge was needing five set points at the end of the first set before fixing a minor mechanical issue.
With extended draw sizes of 16 players for men’s and women’s wheelchair singles at the Australian Open for the first time this year, 2021 and 2022 finalist Hewett, said:
“You don’t want to spend too many hours on court this week when you know it could be a long week with more matches, but also the temperature really takes it out of you. The last few years (at the Australian Open) I’ve had some gruelling matches in the sun, so to get one of these matches under my belt where it’s clinical and I get the job done, it’s really needed to save some energy for later on.
“I’m really enjoying the fact that we now have more competitors. It’s well needed that we have these bigger draw sizes, because players are showing that they’re capable of beating those in the top five or six in the world. I did a good job today to figure him (Arai) out as I’ve only played him in singles once before, in Sydney six or seven years ago. ”
Reid, who won the first of his two Grand Slam singles titles in Australia in 2016, secured a confidence-boosting 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 victory over world No.9 ranked Dutchman Tom Egberink as he continues to make progress following a 2022 season interrupted by injury. After coming from 2-0 down to claim the dividing set, Reid said:
“It feels great to be back out there and playing with no restrictions and no pain and I’m really pleased to get through another match. The main priority during this trip was to try and come home healthy and I still feel healthy and have had some good wins along the way.
“I knew what to expect (against Egberink), but it doesn’t always make it easy to find the solution and I’m happy with the way I came through some tight games in that third set. Mentally, to come through a tough challenge against him is something I’m proud of.”
As well as playing each other in Wednesday’s singles quarter-finals, Hewett and Reid, who are both supported by the LTA’s Wheelchair Elite Programme, will also face Joachim Gerard of Belgium and Japan’s Takuya Miki as they open their bid for a 16th Grand Slam doubles title and a fourth successive Australian Open crown together.
Hewett, who won the Australian Open and French Open titles with Reid in 2022 to take their recording breaking sequence of successive titles at the majors to 10, added:
“We had a good little run last week (on the way to the Melbourne Open final), but it’s not going to be easy playing Miki and Gerard. A new pair brings new challenges, but just to be out with Gordon with him now playing some of the best tennis he’s capable of is really nice.”
Ben Bartram grew in confidence throughout his senior debut at a Grand Slam, but ultimately lost out 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 to Japan’s Takashi Sanada.
Bartram took the former world No.7 to 30-30 or deuce in all but one game in the opening set before building on a 3-0 second set lead. Sanada finished strongest to take the win, but reigning US Open junior champion Bartram is looking forward to the future, which includes his opening men’s doubles match with Japan’s Tokito Oda on Wednesday. Bartram, who is supported by the LTA’s Pro Scholarship Programme, said:
“I’m definitely very proud of the performance I put out there and I’m very pleased with the way I came back after the first set. Things weren’t looking good for me and I managed to find a way to take it to a third. At the same time, I’m disappointed and a bit annoyed at myself for not being able to take that third set, because I believe I’m capable of doing that, but overall it’s definitely a very good performance.”
Bartram will partner Oda to play Arai and Sanada for a place in the men’s doubles semi-finals.
“The energy and intensity we bring to the court definitely puts us up there among the best in the world and we showcased that at the Doubles Masters (in 2022). Hopefully we can do the same.”
The day ended with former Australian Open finalist Andy Lapthorne missing out on a place in the quad singles semi-finals after a 6-3, 6-3 loss to his American doubles partner David Wagner. Lapthorne and Wagner begin their defence of their quad doubles title on Wednesday against Donald Ramphadi and Ymanitu Silva.
Meanwhile, four-time Australian Open women’s doubles finalist Lucy Shuker will begin her bid to reach a third successive doubles final at Melbourne Park on Wednesday she partners the USA’s Dana Mathewson to play Colombia’s Angelica Bernal and Katharina Kruger of Germany. The British No.1’s women’s singles campaign ended in a 6-0, 6-0 loss to world No.2 Yui Kamiji.Get your copy of PosAbility Magazine
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