Britain’s Alfie Hewett will contest his first ABN AMRO World Wheelchair Tennis Tournament final after coming out on top against fellow Brit Gordon Reid 6-0, 7-5 in the semi-finals.
This will be the second singles final of 2018 the 20-year-old tennis ace has featured in, having also made it to the same point in Sydney at the beginning of the season, where he finished as runner-up to Shingo Kunieda.
And it will be his first final since he achieved the World number one ranking two weeks ago.
Waiting for him there is the player he replaced at the top of the rankings after the 2018 Australian Open, Gustavo Fernandez.
The World number two was involved in a marathon of a three-setter which lasted nearly two and a half hours and came from a set down against Stephane Houdet 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 to book his spot alongside Hewett in Saturday’s singles final.
Into my second singles final of 2018 here at the @abnamrowtt Really enjoying my time at this class event. Doubles final later with Gio 5pm ?? time if anyone wants to watch https://t.co/xTafKksD2A pic.twitter.com/B313jlYHAF
— Alfie Hewett (@alfiehewett6) February 16, 2018
An exciting all-British on court battle
From the moment the first ball was hit you had a sense this semi-final was going to be one of those thrilling and entertaining battles between Hewett and Reid.
Both were playing attacking and aggressive tennis from the outset, using their knowledge of each others games well and really showcasing their individual skill and strengths on court.
It was Hewett though who got off to the strongest start.
His service games were for the most part comfortably held in the first set and he was capitalising on break point opportunities when they presented themselves.
At 4-0 down Reid did have the opportunity to get a game on the board, earning himself a break point against the World number one’s serve.
But Hewett saved it, held and then went on to break the World number five’s serve for the third time and take the first set 6-0.
When the second set began you could see that Reid had reset and was ready to go again taking the first two games and the lead for the first time in the match, and for the majority of the set he maintained his lead over Hewett.
Then when Reid was 5-3 up and it was looking like this match was going to go the distance, the ‘Alfie Express’ found another gear and faced with serving to keep himself in the set he dug deep and a cross court forehand winner sealed the deal and the important service hold to keep his second set hopes alive.
It was that service hold that saw momentum shift once again, kick-starting what was to be a four game run by Hewett which saw him take the second set and the match in straight sets.
Doubles champions crowned
The singles semi-final wasn’t the only opportunity we got to see the British pair on court today.
Today saw the conclusion of the doubles competition in Rotterdam, and it featured the two Brits who came through their semi-final against Evans Maripa and Frederic Cattaneo in straight sets yesterday to book their place in todays final.
At the opposite side of the net in the final were Joachim Gerard and Stefan Olsson, who had already claimed one big win over a seeded pair in their semi-final against defending champions Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer, and were looking for their next in order to lift the trophy.
The first thing to say about this final is it didn’t disappoint – it was tense, competitive and a great showcase of the athleticism of the sport from beginning to end.
And in a way it seemed fitting that when the champions were decided it had taken a tie-break to decide both sets.
It was to be the third meeting of 2018 for these two pairs, having already competed against each other in the semi-finals of both the Sydney International and Melbourne Open at the start of the season.
And the head to head was equal going into this exchange – the Brits getting the win in Sydney and the Belgian/Swedish partnership coming out on top a week later in Melbourne.
Building on that last win over the British though it was again Gerard and Olsson who claimed victory here and took the title in straight sets 7-6(5), 7-6(5), with Reid and Hewett finishing with runners-up honours.
When you win the doubles tournament of #abnamrowwtt.
?? for @stefanolsson87 ??/@JoachimGerard ?? pic.twitter.com/oqUbEFeSj0
— ABN AMRO WTT (@abnamrowtt) February 16, 2018
Gerard and Olsson raced to a 4-1 lead in the first set before the British duo fought their way admirably back to force a tie-break in the first set.
And it was Reid and Hewett who arguably made the better start in the breaker, going a mini-break up early on.
But as momentum seemed to swing back in Gerard and Olsson’s favour towards the end it wasn’t enough to keep them ahead and the tie-break and first set went to the eventual champions.
The second set in comparison to the first was a lot closer an affair from the beginning and after two service holds at the beginning of the set, there was a run of six games where no player seemed to be able to hold their serve.
Then at four all Reid got an important hold to take him and Hewett 5-4 up and only needing to break the Olsson serve to make the match go the distance.
Olsson had other plans though, holding to love, and it appeared that having bucked the trend of breaking serve, Reid had kick-started one of holding it.
Then, with the Brits 6-5 and set point up, questions were once again asked of the pair form Belgium and Sweden and they responded with the perfect answer – forcing another tie-break.
Once again momentum appeared to be with Reid and Hewett as they went 4-1 up at the start of the breaker.
But then Gerard and Olsson launched a spirited comeback of their own, eventually taking the second set with a familiar score line 7-6 (5), the match and the 2018 title.