Alfie Hewett became a three-time US Open men’s wheelchair singles champion on Sunday in New York after beating world No.1 Shingo Kunieda of Japan 7-6(2), 6-1.
Hewett, who also won the US Open title in 2018 and 2019, needed six set points before taking the opening set with an ace, having put away a total of 26 winners.
The British No.1 hit eight winners alone in the first three games of the second set earning a 3-0 lead with a break to love. A ninth double fault from Kunieda gave Hewett two match points, but the first was enough for Hewett to earn his first win over Kunieda in three major finals this season and claim the sixth Grand Slam singles title of his career.
Hewett, who is part of the LTA’s Wheelchair Elite Programme, said: “It’s obviously an incredible feeling. Even though it’s the third one it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t mean as much as the last two. Actually, it means more this time around to bounce back after everything that’s been going on (for family) the last eight or nine weeks and also after losing to him in the final at Wimbledon.
“To then fight and be resilient like I did, especially in that first set today, and then produce the level of tennis I did in that second, it’s testament to my team, my mentality and everything I’ve worked for, so I couldn’t be happier with the title.
“After Wimbledon (losing to Kunieda after being a set and 2-0 up) you have to learn from those matches. I don’t think I did anything wrong then but you’ve got to be aware that these players are not going to go away; they are just as strong as I am. Some of the comebacks that Shingo’s done, that Jo (Gerard) has done, that Gustavo (Fernandez) has done, they’re all incredible athletes and all have great mindsets, so you have to be on it, even if you’re 3-0 or 4-0 up. That’s what I did so well. It’s easy to get a little bit complacent and think you can switch off but, as proven at Wimbledon, it doesn’t work like that.”
Junior Wheelchair Tennis Titles make history at US Open
There was success in the junior arena for the Brits too, as Ben Bartram claimed the US Open Wheelchair boys’ singles title and then partnered Dahnon Ward to secure the boys’ doubles title at the first junior wheelchair tournament to take place at one of the sport’s four majors.
Seventeen-year-old Bartram beat Ward 6-2, 6-0 in an all-British junior singles final. Before they both paired up to beat Saalim Naser of Australia and Ivar van Rijt of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-3 in the boys’ doubles title. Bartram said: “It’s amazing to be the first junior doubles champions. We first played doubles together when we were 12 or 13, so we’ve definitely come a long way. We’re best friends on and off court and get on really well and hopefully that shows when we play doubles.
“In singles we both want to win, but it’s a great thing to be on court in the final knowing a British player will be the winner no matter what the result after all the work people have put in with us at the LTA and everywhere else.”
Dahnon Ward added: “It was a bit of a ropey first set, but sometimes you have those matches when you just have to pull through. It’s one for the history books and very special for both of us.
“In the great scheme of things there’s no pressure on either of us to win in the (singles) final. People develop at different rates, and it can be hard at times, but this is why we play – for these moments.”
Bartram and Ward are both part of the LTA’s Wheelchair Performance Pathway.
Meanwhile, in the junior girls’ singles final, Ruby Bishop and her American doubles partner Lily Lautenschlager lost out 6-0, 6-0 to top seeds Jade Lanai and Maylee Phelps.
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