Bath | How Alfie Hewett just keeps raising his game
Britain’s Alfie Hewett has stormed his way into yet another UNIQLO wheelchair tennis tour final after defeating Takashi Sanada in straight sets 7-5 6-2 in the semi-finals at Bath Indoor.
If I just give it my all then I can’t come off the court having any regrets. Alfie Hewett
He said: “I’m happy with the win today but I know what I need to improve on.
“It was a slow first start to the set again and I didn’t serve well something I felt has been happening all week but I still thought in the rallies I controlled a lot of the points.
“Sanada hit quite a few quick winners and put a bit of pressure on me at the start of the match but I found my way into the first set.
“Second set I changed a few things with my serve and it was a lot more consistent and I think that’s a big reason why I performed a bit better and the scoreline was a lot easier.”
In getting the win the 2017 Roland Garros champion has set up a meeting with the 2017 Wimbledon winner Stefan Olsson, after he saw off Gustavo Fernandez for the second time this year in three sets 6-7 (3) 6-1 6-1.
On his second win in as many meetings against the World number one Olsson said: “It’s always difficult against Gusti.
“If you don’t do the right things he’s going to pretty much destroy you so I was happy and fortunate to be able to play well in the second and third set so a good win.
“Alfie in the final is going to be tough too he’s a really good player and the way he’s been playing the last two years is amazing.”
And Olsson is right, Hewett, who hasn’t yet celebrated his 20th Birthday but already has four Grand Slam titles to his name, might look like he’s peaking early but his performances so far in Bath this week have shown this is only the beginning and that he his hungry to improve even more and become an even stronger and better player – both physically and mentally.
He’s been winning matches against the top ten ‘without a serve’
When the draw came out on Monday it saw Hewett in the tougher side of the draw.
His road to the final would see him having to take on a number of strong top ten players to get there so he would have to be on top of his game.
You can clearly see the work he’s been doing on the training court post US Open has helped him make his way to the final this week – his movement, his shots and his approach to games just seems to have gone up to a whole other level.
But Hewett will admit himself there is one area of his game that just hasn’t been working this week – his serve.
Despite this he’s notched up a number impressive victories over Gerard in the quarter-finals, who looks to be back on top on form again just in time for the year-end Masters tournament after coming back from injury in July, and Sanada in the semis.
Hewett said: “I feel like I’ve beaten those two players this week without a serve which is such a big aspect in the game.
“It’s the first shot in a rally and when you’re not making first and even second serves it puts a lot of pressure on on your service games.
“But to win those matches without a serve, which is such a big part of tennis, it shows a lot about the other aspects of my game.
“If I can sort my serve out and still maintain the other areas my game will be exactly where I want it to be.”
He never underestimates his opponent whoever he’s up against
The depth in the men’s open division is impressive.
You only have to look at the four different names on the Grand Slam trophies this year to see that there is no one dominant player in the division and if you look at the current top ten, of which Hewett is one, there is potential for any one of them to win a tournament at any level.
And this is something Hewett recognises.
So even though statistically he has the edge over Olsson he’s not taking anything for granted and is prepared to have to play his highest level of tennis against the World number six in the final.
He said: “It’s such a strong field these days. There’s no one real definite person that’s going to take over and always be in the final and always win it.
“Stefan looks like he’s playing well and it’s going to be a tough match in the final.
“I’ve had a some really good head-to-heads with him and not lost to him in a while so I’m going to try and pick out the key bits about what makes me play so well against and obviously try and replicate that tomorrow but I’m not going to underestimate him because he’s an amazing player and he showed that today against Gustavo.
“At the end of the day anything can happen – Stefan and/or I might turn up to the final and play an absolute blinder, we might play an absolute shocker, that’s tennis though you never know what’s going to happen.”
He can get to the ‘ungettable’
Hewett has always had this impressive ability when it comes to chasing balls down – many will remember his pick-up in the Wimbledon men’s doubles final this year that saw him get voted as the third best shot at The Championships, only prevented from reaching the top spot by Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.
But this week he just seems to be able to be getting on the end of the impossible.
So much so when we’ve been watching Hewett’s matches we’ve ended up sympathising with his opponent as they try to work out if there’s anywhere on court they can place the ball that the World number three can’t get to.
Hewett said: “One area about my matches with Jo and Sanada I’ve been really pleased with is that I never gave up on any ball even if it was ungettable, even if I could just push and swing at it, even if I missed it, that for me puts a little doubt in my opponents mind that actually their next shot has to be exactly where they want it to be otherwise I’m going to go for it.
“Every single ball I think push and if I don’t get to it I know I couldn’t get it to it, but if I don’t try then I’ll never know if I would have made it.
“I feel like I’m getting to more balls than I did six weeks ago and for consistent periods of time as well.
“And if I just give it my all then I can’t come off the court having any regrets.”