Rotterdam | Gustavo Fernandez takes the title
Twists, turns and terrific tennis – the singles final at the ABN AMRO World Wheelchair Tennis Tournament had all that and so much more.
In a title decider that was as well-crafted as a perfectly written two-act play, Gustavo Fernandez triumphed in straight sets 7-6(5) 7-6(4).
He was crowned 2018 champion at the end of a thriller of an on court battle between him and the other leading man he shared today’s stage in Rotterdam with, Britain’s Alfie Hewett.
After his win Fernandez becomes the fourth player in the tournaments history to become a two-time champion, having previously won the singles title back in 2015.
And Hewett, who ends his 2018 Rotterdam campaign with runners-up honours in both singles and doubles can also be proud of what he has achieved – equalling his doubles achievement and surpassing his singles result from last year, when he bowed out in the quarter-final stages of the 2017 singles competition.
Highlighting the massive improvements he has made in his game and consistency against the top players over the last 12 months.
The winner of the 2018 edition #abnamrowwtt:
— ABN AMRO WTT (@abnamrowtt) February 17, 2018
A tale of two tie-breaks
Much like the doubles final yesterday it was two tie-breaks that formed one of the major plot lines in this match.
The other being that of the art of the comeback and the momentum shifts that would play with our emotions and leave us in suspense from the sixth game of each of the two sets onwards.
In the first set it was Hewett who settled quickest as he raced to a 4-1 lead, his confidence growing and his shot making become more and more lethal with every point he won.
Cue game six and enter Fernandez about to launch a comeback, taking the next three games, including a break of the Hewett serve, levelling it at four all, then five all, and dealing with the high pressure situation and important points well.
It was then when the effort Fernandez had put in to his fierce fightback started to reap rewards when it came to games on the board.
At five all he broke Hewett’s serve in the same fashion as he had done in the seventh game – when the first break point opportunity came, he took it.
The Argentinian was then ahead for the first time in the match and now it was Hewett who had the pressure of having to break his opponents serve to keep the first set alive and force a tie-break.
At this point of course Hewett showed why he deserves every bit of the World number one ranking he currently holds, playing smart and dominating the next game with the quality, attacking form of tennis that is starting to become his trademark.
And the breaker that followed well that was merely the epilogue of the first set.
Summarising every emotion we’d felt and key points we’d witnessed in those last 12 games into just thirteen points.
Hewett leads, Fernandez makes a comeback; Fernandez leads then Hewett levels it; Fernandez takes his opportunity to go in front at just the right time and edges the first set.
Game, set and match @gustifernandez4 🇦🇷! He defeats Alfie Hewett in two tiebreaks.
— ABN AMRO WTT (@abnamrowtt) February 17, 2018
As the second set action got underway you could have been forgiven for thinking that we’d pressed the re-wind button, only this time the leading man in the comeback caper was not Fernandez, it was Hewett.
Fernandez went 4-1 up just like Hewett had done in the first set, and was even one point away from taking a 5-1 lead.
Then the ‘Alfie Express’ went turbo charged.
Hewett brought it back to deuce, won his first game since the start of the second set and went on a fantastic four game run to go 5-4 up, giving him his first opportunity to serve out for the set.
But there was still room for a couple of more twists in this tale and you could see Fernandez really didn’t want this match to go the distance.
He’d been involved in three set battles with Hewett before and whilst three out of the four of them have ended up going his way, he also knows the British number one has a reputation of coming back from a set down and closing out matches.
He wasn’t about to risk that happening today, especially given the on court resilience Hewett had already shown so far in this final.
So twice he stopped the World number one from serving out for the second set and this time it was Fernandez’s turn to force a tie-break.
Once again it was Hewett who got off to the strongest start, quickly giving himself a 3-0 lead in the breaker.
But then the World number two took the next six points to give himself three match points.
He only needed two and despite Hewett drawing upon every ounce of fight he had left in his body it was tie-break, second set and 2018 singles title Fernandez.
But both players should be credited for playing their part in what was a phenomenal final.
Bringing the curtain down on what has been an incredible week of wheelchair tennis in Rotterdam in style.