Britain’s Alfie Hewett produced one of the finest comebacks of his illustrious career at the Australian Open on Wednesday, but ultimately his heroic efforts were not quite enough as Belgium’s Joachim Gerard claimed the men’s wheelchair singles title 6-0 4-6 6-4.
In those situations, you have two choices, either you let it go away from you and accept defeat or you give it a fight. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Today it was a good fight. Jo deserved the win in the end, he served well when it mattered and I know what it meant to him Alfie Hewett
Hewett will still return home later this week with his 14th Grand Slam trophy after partnering Gordon Reid to win their second successive Australian Open men’s doubles title on Tuesday. Their 10th Grand Slam title together saw them equal the record for all-time most successful British doubles partnership in one of four finals contested at Melbourne Park this year by players on the LTA’s Wheelchair Tennis World Class Programme.
No stranger to launching memorable comebacks during his career, Hewett won his first Grand Slam singles title at the 2017 French Open after being 6-0 2-0 down against Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez. However, reflecting on Wednesday’s contest against Gerard, during which he saved six match points, he said:
“At 6-0 4-0 down he had a point to go 5-0 as well and at that stage of the match the only thing in my mind was that I didn’t want to lose 6-0 6-0. I felt I needed to win just the one game, just so that the scoreline didn’t look quite so embarrassing. But once I got that one game, then anything can happen at 4-1 and 4-2. If you get the right momentum and making balls in the court, you never know. Jo might get a little tight towards the end and start spraying balls a lot more.
“Before I knew it, it felt like I was back in a proper match again,” added Hewett, who beat Gerard in three sets last October to win his second French Open title at Roland Garros.
“I had chances in the middle of the third set to take the break and I was kicking myself about that. Then some second serve returns went long. But it is what it is, it comes down to a few points in the end and thankfully it was just a few points rather than complete embarrassment.”
A run of seven games in a row saw Hewett go on take an early 1-0 lead in the third and final set. At 5-3 down he saved four separate match points, but in the next game Gerard served his way into a 40-0 lead and Hewett fired a forehand wide to hand the Belgian his first Grand Slam singles title.
Despite missing out on a fifth Grand Slam singles title, two-time French Open and two-time US Open champion Hewett remained philosophical and pleased with his recovery. He said:
“It’s a mentality, a resilience, a never-say-die attitude that I’ve always had, but of course you work on it a lot off court. When my back’s against the wall I actually produce some of my best tennis. In those situations, you have two choices, either you let it go away from you and accept defeat or you give it a fight. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Today it was a good fight. Jo deserved the win in the end, he served well when it mattered and I know what it meant to him.”