Britain’s Alfie Hewett, Gordon Reid and Andy Lapthorne secured a full house of semi-final victories for players on the LTA’s Wheelchair Tennis World Class Programme on Thursday as they reached the men’s singles, men’s doubles and quad singles finals respectively at the French Open in Paris.
I really feel like I’m playing some of my best tennis at the moment and feeling good on the court. I really want to make that two Roland Garros titles come Sunday evening.” Alfie Hewett
World No.3 Hewett will play Belgium’s Joachim Gerard in Saturday’s men’s singles final after beating reigning Roland Garros champion Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina 7-6(5), 7-5 in his semi-final. Also on Saturday, world No.2 Lapthorne will play Australian top seed Dylan Alcott in the quad singles final after earning a hard-fought 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 victory over American David Wagner.
Hewett, who recovered from a set down to beat world No.2 Fernandez in the 2017 men’s final in Paris, avenged a straight sets loss to the Argentinian in last year’s semi-finals as he dominated the second half of a first set tie-break, closing out the set with a backhand down the line.
The second set continued to be close, but Hewett saved three set points at 5-4 down and three subsequent game points that would have meant a second tie-break, if Fernandez had converted them. However, ultimately two errors from the Fernandez racket presented Hewett with his second victory over the Argentinian in less than a week. Hewett, who also beat Fernandez 6-3, 7-6(6) in last Saturday’s final at the French Riviera Open final, said:
“I’m very, very happy to have been so resilient out there. It felt like even if I go down in a game, whether it was 40-0, 30-0, 40-15, I could come back every single time. I think when I have that belief on court is when I play my best.
“I think at 5-4 in both sets, to even be in that situation, I could sit back and think, wow, what a difference from last year. To be in that situation is something, but then to take it meant a lot.”
Looking forward to Saturday’s final, Hewett added:
“I haven’t played Jo for a while now. Obviously recently he’s been doing fairly well, so it’s going to be a good final. He hits the ball quite big when he’s playing well, so it’s going to be a tough match. But I really feel like I’m playing some of my best tennis at the moment and feeling good on the court. I really want to make that two Roland Garros titles come Sunday evening.”
Lapthorne made a victorious Roland Garros debut as he repeated his victory over Wagner in the quad singles semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2019, beating the American for the fifth time in six matches.
Two-time US Open champion Lapthorne served out the opening set to love, but he struggled in the second half of the second set as Wagner reeled off five games in a row to force the decider. However, as he’d done in the opening set, Lapthorne secured the first service hold of the final set for a 3-1 lead.
A number of errors from Wagner allowed Lapthorne to extend the advantage to 5-2. At 5-3 up he faced the prospect of having his lead cut to just one game, but put together five successive points from 0-40 down, closing out the match with a forehand lob that left Wagner stranded.
Lapthorne, who now teams up with Alcott for Friday’s quad doubles final before they meet in Saturday’s singles final, said:
“The practice this morning was unbelievable for half an hour. I was probably playing some of the best tennis I’ve ever played.
I’m disappointed with the way I played the match, but happy to get through to the final. The serve was off today, but I’ve given myself another opportunity to fix things and hopefully I can bring out to the match court what I’ve been doing on the practice court, as things don’t seem to be translating at the moment.
“At 2-1 up in the second I really should have put my foot down and finished that one off, but I can’t complain too much. On Saturday I’d like to play better, for sure. I’m expecting a tough test (against Alcott), so I’m going to have to be ready and I’m going to have to bring more firepower than I did today.”
The day ended with Hewett and Reid stretching their unbeaten doubles record for the season to 15 matches as they beat Frederic Cattaneo of France and Gerard 6-3, 7-6(2) in their semi-final. The Australian Open and US Open champions will now face Japan’s Shingo Kunieda and Fernandez in Friday’s final.
An immediate break of serve helped propel top seeds Hewett and Reid to the first set, but they had to recover from 4-2 and 5-3 down to force the second set tie-break. Three quick points put the British pairing in control of the tie-break and, with four match points in their favour, Reid approached the net and put away a short crosscourt forehand that proved too much for Cattaneo.
Reid, already a two-time French Open doubles champion with Kunieda in 2015 and 2016, said:
“Alfie had a tough match earlier, it was a bit windy and the ball was moving a little bit slower, so yes it was tough. They played pretty well, but we did really well to step up a gear in the second set from 5-3 down and started to play a little bit more like we know we’re capable of.
“We’re all going to know each other and know what to expect tomorrow (in the final). There’s not going to be any surprises, I think, and our main focus is to try and play the style that we train for and that we put the work in for. The main thing for us is to move well, to communicate well and to move forward onto the ball. because that’s when we play our best tennis.”
As well as the men’s doubles and quad doubles finals taking place on Friday, the third and penultimate day of wheelchair tennis action at Roland Garros will also see Jordanne Whiley and her Japanese partner Yui Kamiji begin their quest for a third French Open women’s doubles final.
The 2014 and 2016 Roland Garros champions and this year’s Australian Open and US Open champions will play Dutchwoman Marjolein Buis and Charlotte Famin of France for a place in Saturday’s final.