Alfie Hewett booked a place in his third French Open men’s singles semi-final in four years on Wednesday’s first day of wheelchair tennis action at Roland Garros after defeating Frenchman Stephane Houdet 7-5 6-3.
Hewett will now play world No.2 Gustavo Fernandez on Thursday, but a mixed day for players on the LTA’s Wheelchair Tennis World Class Programme saw both Gordon Reid and Jordanne Whiley bow out of singles events ahead of their respective doubles campaigns beginning over the next two days.
After being 3-0 and 4-1 down against Houdet, world No.3 Hewett slotted away a forehand winner to lead for the first time at 6-5. A double fault from Houdet presented the British No.1 with three set points and he only needed the first, putting away a forehand down the line to take the opening set.
Hewett won the last three games to close out the match, with a potential forehand winner on match point clipping the net cord, the ball losing all acceleration to land out of Houdet’s reach. Hewett, who will now face Fernandez for the second time in a week after beating the Argentinian 6-3, 7-6(6) on Saturday to win the French Rivera Open, said:
“I think there was some really good tennis and it’s a shame it had to end that way, but I think it was a good last game to play. It’s never a nice way to end a match. I didn’t feel like I got off to a quick and intense start but managed to find enough rhythm and enough balls in the court to be able to scrape my way back into it.
“It was so important for me to do well last week, because I think in the past he’s (Fernandez) kind of dominated in the Slams against me. It’s going to be a difficult task to be able to replicate that, but I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a great match.”
Reid’s bid to set up an all-British semi-final ended in a 6-3, 6-3 loss to defending champion Fernandez, the player Reid met in both the 2016 and 2019 finals in Paris.
The British No.2 and world No.5 was unable to recover from 3-1 down early in his quarter-final and although Reid managed to keep pace with Fernandez for the first four games of the second set his challenge faded and he now looks forwarding to trying for a first French Open men’s doubles title partnering Hewett.
Reid, who will team up with Hewett to face Frederic Cattaneo of France and Belgium’s Joachim Gerard in in Thursday’s men’s doubles semi-finals, said:
“I think there were two or three games in the middle of that first set where I played exactly the way I’m looking to play against these top guys. I think I just need to do those things a little bit more consistently. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated or anything risky, it just has to be that my base level has to stay a little bit higher for longer.”
Hewett and Reid will go into Thursday’s men’s doubles semi-final unbeaten in six tournaments and 14 matches this season after victory at last week’s French Riviera Open. Reid added:
“This is the last Slam that we haven’t won together so it’s a big goal of ours to try and win here. Like always, it’s going to be tough. We’ve struggled a little bit at Roland Garros the last couple of years, but we’ve been putting a lot of work in and we had a good week last week in preparation.”
Whiley will team up with Japan’s Yui Kamiji for Friday’s women’s doubles semi-finals after her bid to reach a second French Open singles semi-final ended in a 6-3, 0-6, 6-1 loss to defending champion and world No.1 Diede de Groot of the Netherlands.
Whiley fought back from 3-0 down in the opening set and had chances to take a 4-3 lead as she faced De Groot in a second successive Grand Slam quarter-final. Although the opportunity came and went, Whiley made a much better start to the second set and won 11 of the first 12 points in a dominant passage of play to force the decider.
However, world No.5 Whiley was only able to break serve in the third game of the final set as De Groot followed up her win over the Briton in their opening match of last month’s US Open. Nevertheless, Whiley was much happier with her performance than she had been in New York. She said:
“I think it was much better than out in the States a few weeks ago, so I’m really pleased about that. I was maybe a bit too erratic and I think that if I’d taken one of the three points to go 4-3 up, then maybe I could have been in for a shot of the first set.
“I just played really, really well (in the second set). I think I just got that first set of my system and then I calmed down a lot better and I just hit my spots. But I just couldn’t sustain it for the third set and that was the issue.”
Aside from Hewett’s men’s singles semi-final against Fernandez and Hewett and Reid’s men’s doubles semi-final, Thursday’s second day of play will also see Andy Lapthorne make his Roland Garros debut when he takes on American world No.3 David Wagner in the quad singles semi-finals.
World No.2 Lapthorne will aim to repeat his victory over Wagner in last year’s Wimbledon semi-finals.