Britain’s Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid made history on Saturday in New York after their fifth successive US Open title together saw them become the first ever wheelchair tennis partnership to complete the calendar Grand Slam in men’s doubles.
It's an amazing feeling. To do it together as a team is something we take a lot of pride in. There’s a little bit of regret we couldn't make it the Golden Slam. Gordon Reid
On a glorious day for British tennis, Hewett and Reid took just an hour and 14 minutes to beat Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez and Japan’s Shingo Kunieda 6-2 6-1 repeating their win over the same partnership in the 2019 final, which the Brits won in a deciding match tie-break.
Reid, who also won the 2015 US Open men’s doubles title before the start of his unprecedented success with Hewett, said:
“It’s an amazing feeling. To do it together as a team is something we take a lot of pride in. There’s a little bit of regret we couldn’t make it the Golden Slam (they won the Tokyo Paralympic silver medal). We were three points away from doing that. To come here and finish the year strongly together and go home with all four at the same time, it’s a good feeling.”
Hewett, who played Kunieda in Sunday’s men’s singles final, added: “I’m extremely, extremely happy and proud as a team to walk away with a Grand Slam. It’s not an easy task to be able to go out there and do.
“We’ve taken each one as it’s come. It’s got closer and closer. As Gio (Reid’s nickname) said, we’re still hurting from last week (at the Tokyo Paralympics). What’s so impressive is how quickly we bounced back.”
Hewett and Reid’s victory brought them their eighth successive Grand Slam title together and took their tally of career doubles titles as a partnership to 13. In June this year they became the most successful British doubles partnership ever at the Grand Slams after sealing their second French Open title at Roland Garros to surpass a record previously set by brothers Laurence and Reginald Doherty between 1897 and 1905.
The world’s top-ranked doubles players, Hewett and Reid were quick to recognise the support they have received from LTA support staff, in particular coach Martyn Whait and sports psychologist Sarah Cecil, to help build their formidable partnership. Hewett said:
“Those guys have been instrumental in the success we’ve had over the past 18 months to two years. They’ve really helped us come together. They’ve been a big part of what’s going on.
“All the hours spent out on the court, Martyn, for example, going through endless amounts of stats, analysis, looking up pairs in detail, coming up with plans for us. Sarah, from a psychology point of view, (building) a partnership, us as a team, they’ve really, really put in the work.”
With Hewett and Reid’s next target being the sport’s year-end Doubles Masters in Orlando in November, Reid said:
“We’ve committed a lot of time, a lot of hours behind the scenes with the guys back home, to building our team and improving, especially over the last two or three years. Obviously getting the titles is what we’re trying to achieve. Moments like this is what we do that for.”
While Hewett and Reid are the first all-British partnership to win a calendar year Grand Slam, they are not the first Brits to achieve the feat. That distinction belongs to Jordanne Whiley, who won all four women’s doubles titles at the majors in 2014, partnering Japan’s Yui Kamiji.
Whiley and Kamiji were back in New York this year bidding for their third US Open doubles title but they had to be contest with the runners-up trophies after Dutch top seeds Diede de Groot and Aniek van Koot claimed the 2021 title 6-1 6-2. Whiley, who has won 12 Grand Slam doubles titles with Kamiji, said:
“Yui and I didn’t play very well today and I just don’t think I had anything left in the tank. It’s been a really emotional and physical last couple of weeks. Emotionally, after such a successful Tokyo, I think I’ve just really struggled to find my tennis this week. Obviously, the Dutch were really strong today, so credit to them.”
Whiley, whose Tokyo Paralympic women’s singles bronze medal and doubles silver medal partnering Lucy Shuker were the first of either colour in either event for British players, added:
“I’m happy with my Tokyo. I had such a successful Tokyo and I’m so happy and proud with what I did there. I’m just disappointed (now), but I’m going home tomorrow and I just want to go and see (son) Jackson and spend some time with him.”
Hewett, Reid, Whiley and fellow Brit Andy Lapthorne have now won a total of 17 US Open titles in singles and doubles between them since 2014. However, Lapthorne was unable to add to his two quad singles and four quad doubles titles this year after bowing out in Saturday’s singles semi-finals.
Lapthorne who was beaten 7-6(5), 6-1 by Tokyo Paralympic bronze medallist Niels Vink, said:
“To be 5-2 up in the first set tie-break, I probably just didn’t pull the trigger when I should have. There are steps forward. I felt like I played a good match. I felt like I probably played the best I can play in the circumstance. (After the Paralympics) I’m out there on my own, so to be able to still play at that level is pleasing. It’s just a shame that I couldn’t win those big points at the end of the first set.”
In Sunday’s men’s final, Alfie Hewett had to settle for runners-up honours for the third time in five years after world No.1 and Tokyo Paralympic champion Shingo Kunieda claimed his eighth US Open men’s singles title 6-1 6-4.
World No.2 Hewett, the champion in New York in 2018 and 2019, was unable to win a point in the first three games after the flare up of a shoulder injury. However, after treatment on court Hewett started to show the powers of recovery that have so often been the trademark of his victories at Grand Slams and so many of the world’s other big wheelchair tournaments.
Hewett, who made history on Saturday partnering fellow Brit Gordon Reid as they became the first men’s wheelchair doubles partnership to complete a calendar year Grand Slam, said:
“Obviously I’m disappointed in the match, I think Shingo played pretty well and came out pretty strong. On the back of last week (when Kunieda won the Paralympic gold medal in Tokyo) you could see that he really wanted it.”
Five-time Grand Slam singles champion Hewett produced a succession of winners with his favoured topspin backhand in the second set. But having fought hard to recover from 3-0 and 4-1 down to level the set, he was unable to force a decider, with Kunieda showing just why he is now a 25-time Grand Slam singles champion and eight-time US Open singles champion. Hewett added:
“I couldn’t quite execute the points that I probably needed to, to make it a little bit more entertaining. In the second set there were snippets of what I needed to do out there to be able to beat him, but I couldn’t do it consistently enough today. That’s sport. If you’re not going to do it consistently enough, you’re not going to win.
“World Team Cup is now the plan in 10 days. It’s not a long turnaround, but I’m really looking forward to that. It’s a great event, to be part of a GB team again, so it should be fun.”
Hewett and Reid claimed an unprecedented fifth successive US Open men’s doubles title on Saturday with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez and Kunieda.