Brits Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid both booked a place in a Grand Slam singles semi-final for the first time since the 2017 US Open on Thursday after they triumphed on the opening day of wheelchair tennis action at the French Open.
I really felt like I was playing well. Then at the start of the second I was still playing good shots, but I was just starting to feel that little bit of an energy drop Alfie Hewett
Hewett beat world No.3 Stephane Houdet of France 6-2 7-6(4), while Reid earned a steely 3-6 6-4 6-3 victory over world No.4 Joachim Gerard of Belgium on a remarkable day for the top two men’s players on the LTA’s GB Wheelchair Tennis World Class Performance Programme.
Hewett, the 2017 Roland Garros champion, raced into a 3-0 lead against Houdet and left by a set and 1-0 when the Frenchman needed time out to repair a puncture. When the match resumed Houdet went on to open up a 5-2 lead, but Hewett calmly found his way back, saving a set point at 4-5 down before going on to reach his second Roland Garros singles semi-final.
Hewett also beat Houdet just over two weeks ago in the match that earned Great Britain victory in men’s final at the BNP Paribas World Team Cup. Hewett and Reid finished the event unbeaten in all their singles rubbers. Hewett, the reigning US Open champion, said:
“I really felt like I was playing well. Then at the start of the second I was still playing good shots, but I was just starting to feel that little bit of an energy drop. The tyre was maybe a bit of a factor, but at the end of the day these things happen.
“I took some time off after the US Open last year, and since then I didn’t feel like I’d reached the level I should have been at. Then the World Team Cup came along and I felt a change and played some amazing tennis.”
Hewett now plays Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez in Friday’s semi-finals. He added:
“It’s hard to just carry on, turn up here and think I’ll do the same – that’s not been the case. I had to progress, get back to training on the clay, which we haven’t played on for a year now. It’s like starting from scratch again, so that was really pleasing today.”
Reid, the men’s singles runner-up in Paris in 2016, gathered some welcome momentum to break Gerard’s serve and lead 4-3 in the second set of his quarter-final. He carried the momentum into the final set and could do little wrong as he opened a 3-0 cushion. The Rio Paralympic champion dropped just one point in the final two games, with Gerard serving up a double fault on match point.
The 27-year-old now plays defending champion Shingo Kuniedas of Japan. Former Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Reid said:
“I feel quite drained. It was quite a tense match – I was nervous going in, and my timing was a bit off in the first set, while he was serving and returning well. I’m glad I found my way into it in the second set, scrapping a bit, and in the third set I played some good tennis.
“Shingo’s No.1 in the world right now, and he’s back to what I would say is his best form. He’s always a tough opponent to play against, but I know I can beat him – I’ve beaten him in the past, and I’ve got the game to beat him. I’ll go away, prepare, and try and do that tomorrow.”
With Hewett and Reid in opposite halves of the draw, an all-Brit singles final remains a possibility,
Meanwhile, Friday’s second day of play in Paris also sees Hewett and Reid bid to reach the men’s doubles final together.
The three-time Wimbledon and two-time US Open champions play their singles semi-final opponents Fernandez and Kunieda in their doubles semi-final. Hewett and Reid have played Fernandez and Reid in five Grand Slam doubles semi-finals since 2017 and have so far won each one.