Bath | Alfie Hewett books his place in the semi-finals
Alfie Hewett gave us an encore of his French Open final in his bid to reach the semi-final of the Bath Indoor tournament.
I want to be known as a player who fights and doesn’t give up and I think I showed that today. Alfie Hewett
Losing the first set 6-0 – check.
Being a set and 2-0 down then coming back to force a tie-break in the second – check.
Getting the win but leaving everyone watching needing a few hours to recover from what they’d just witnessed – check.
Every ingredient of the ‘Alfie Classic’ was there.
He said: “I’m really happy with the win today even though I lost the first set 6-0 and then went 2-0 down in the second. There were so many things I’m working on, more on the mental side of the game, that I felt went really well.
“I want to be known as a player who fights and doesn’t give up and I think I showed that today and I felt like I put 120% into every point, I pushed for all the balls even ones I didn’t think I was going to get to and that’s all I can ask.
“Today it paid off and I eventually got the win.”
In fact the only things that really differed from his Roland Garros title winning match against Gustavo Fernandez were his opponent – Joachim Gerard – the court surface and it’s location and the numbers on the scoreboard in that third set.
He said: “At 6-0 2-0 down I don’t panic.”
(We’ll let you into a little secret Alfie neither do we now)
He continued: “I’ve been in that situation before probably more than once now and I believed today that once again I could come back.
“I’ve always said that final in France has given me so much more belief in so many more matches because if I can do it on that big stage at a Grand Slam then I can do it anywhere and against any opponent.”
And by coming through his quarter-final against Gerard in three sets 0-6 7-6(4) 7-5 not only did Hewett maintain his 100% 2017 winning record against the Belgian, he also set up a semi-final with Takashi Sanada keeping British hopes alive in the men’s singles draw after fellow Brit Gordon Reid unfortunately had to withdraw.
Hewett continued: “He’s (Sanada) a top ten player – I’ve had a couple of really good results against him over the past couple of years but for sure it’s going to be tough so we’ll see what happens.
“I’ll take the same approach as today, do the same preparation and fingers crossed that I can play well.”
The men’s singles semi-finalists were also decided in the top half of the draw.
After their quarter-final straight set wins today we will see Stefan Olsson take on Gustavo Fernandez.
First set fright
It was Gerard who got off to the best start, racing to a 3-0 lead and putting in probably one of the strongest performances we’ve seen from him since returning from injury, hinting that with the year-end singles Masters only two weeks away he’s returning to form just in time to defend his title there.
Hewett was full of praise for Gerard’s play today and said: “Jo was very very clinical and strong and getting through the court.
“He’s come back from injury yes but I got the the Jo who was back at the top of his game today so for me to come back when he was playing like that I’m really pleased.”
With Hewett struggling on serve though momentum was clearly with the World number seven who then followed up that strong start by taking the next three games and the first set 6-0.
Hewett said: “I’ve changed my serve up a bit and changed the way I start and the motion really and I’ve been serving really well in training – big, consistent serving – and I had a lot of confidence in it before this event.
“I didn’t feel at all the whole match that it was anywhere near like I’d been doing in training though and so that’s probably the one area that I was disappointed in today, everything else forehand, backhand, volleys, movement, mentality all that I couldn’t ask for more but the serve was the one thing that let me down today at certain points.”
A set and two love down – we’ve been here before
The second set started much like the first with Gerard continuing to dominate and then all of a sudden at 2-0 down the cogs in the Alfie machine started working and all memories of Hewett’s first set serving woes seemed to vanish into thin air as the World number three fired out some stunning first, and indeed second, serve aces.
Hewett then went on a four game run before Gerard could get his next game on the board, a game which saw him break the Brits serve once more before spectators were given a brief period of relief from the tension with three service holds
At five all nerves were on edge again as Gerard broke the Hewett serve to go 6-5 up – only needing to hold his next service game to take the set and the match.
But Hewett was having none of it and started firing out forehand and backhand winners, breaking immediately back and forcing a tie-break, which saw the British number come out on top 7-4 with some brilliantly placed shots down the line and strong play at the net.
Into a decider
All of their previous 2017 meetings have gone to three sets so why should this quarter-final be any different, after all who doesn’t want to maintain a 100% record.
Play was on serve until Gerard got the early break and went 3-1 up, before Hewett then went on another run, only stopped in his tracks after a double fault at 15-40 down in the eighth game of the set handed Gerard his next break of serve.
Hewett had an opportunity to close out the match at 5-4 up in the third but of course he wasn’t going to let us off that easily and we had to wait another two games before we would hear the words ‘Game, Set and Match Hewett’ uttered by the chair umpire.