Great Britain’s men will play for a second ever title at the wheelchair tennis 2019 BNP Paribas World Team Cup on Saturday. Britain are guaranteed to return from the event in Ramat Hasharon, Israel with three medals after the juniors won silver and the women’s team claimed bronze on Friday.
It's been some time since I've won against him and he's been such a strong competitor in the last five to six months. Today was a big step for me and you could see how much it meant to me at the end. We lost to them in the final last year and we really believed we could have won that. Today Gordon had a stunning performance too and we showed what we can do Alfie Hewett
The British men’s team of Alfie Hewett, Gordon Reid and Dermot Bailey secured their spot in the final with a stunning win against top seeds Japan in Friday’s semi-final. Great Britain had lost to Japan in last year’s final and went into the match determined to reverse that result. Reid set things up with a classy 6-4 7-5 win against world No.9 Takashi Sanada, before Hewett produced a sensational performance to defeat world No.1 Shingo Kunieda by the same score.
Speaking after the match, Hewett said: “It’s been some time since I’ve won against him and he’s been such a strong competitor in the last five to six months. Today was a big step for me and you could see how much it meant to me at the end. We lost to them in the final last year and we really believed we could have won that. Today Gordon had a stunning performance too and we showed what we can do.”
Great Britain will now take on France in Saturday afternoon’s final in a match that will be streamed live on the LTA’s Facebook page. It will renew what is one of the biggest rivalries in the sport with the French team including Stéphane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer – the duo who defeated Reid and Hewett in an epic Rio 2016 Paralympic final.
Looking ahead to the final, Hewett said:“They are a very good team with top 10 players, so it’s going to be a good final. We knew Japan was make or break for us, so there was a lot of relief from today’s semi, but now we have to forget it, get back to business and prepare for what awaits us tomorrow.”
Great Britain’s promising junior team of Dahnon Ward, Gregory Slade, Ben Bartram and Ruby Bishop had been hoping to win gold to add to the two previous titles won by teams featuring Hewett in 2013 and Reid in 2007. Despite showing tremendous fighting spirit in what was a gripping final against Australia, doubles pairing Bartram and Ward eventually succumbed 14-12 in the deciding match tie break.
Speaking after the medal ceremony, Bartram said: “I’m proud of what the team have achieved but it would have been a lot nicer to have a gold medal around my neck. We should have won it but we played the best we could and just didn’t get it today.”
Earlier in the day, the women’s team won bronze against South Africa to claim Britain’s first medal of the event. Jordanne Whiley defeated Mariska Venter 6-4 6-1 in the opening singles, with Lucy Shuker sealing the win after staging a second set comeback before her opponent Kgothatso Montjane retired injured in the third with the score at 4-5 6-1 1-2. The British team of Whiley, Shuker, Louise Hunt and Cornelia Oosthuizen will be presented with their medals on Saturday.
Speaking after the match, British No.1 Shuker said: “I think the team did really well this week, on court and off court. I was disappointed yesterday with the result against Japan [in the semi-final], but today we got to go again for bronze. Jordy had a good win, and then I had a close first set and played a really good second set. Unfortunately she [Montjane] had to retire, but I wish her well and hope she recovers”.
Great Britain were the only nation at the event to have teams reach the semi-final stage in all four World Team Cup events. However, the quad team of Andy Lapthorne, Antony Cotterill and James Shaw missed out on the medals after a 2-1 defeat to South Africa on Friday.
Reflecting on the success all the British teams have had this week, Hewett said: “It really shows the great work the LTA have done to be able to develop not just a good men’s team, but a good quad team, a good women’s team and a good junior team. You can’t don well at this event with just one good player in a team. That’s why every year we are in and around the medals now.”
The World Team Cup is held on an annual basis and is the ITF’s flagship wheelchair tennis team event – the wheelchair tennis equivalent of the Fed Cup and Davis Cup competitions. Teams from 23 nations qualified to compete in this year’s finals.
Players in the 14-strong British squad for the tournament are part of the LTA’s Wheelchair Tennis World Class Performance Programme and its Junior Futures Potential Programme.