The first all-British pair to win a men’s wheelchair doubles title at Wimbledon in 2016 and only last month becoming the first players to set up an all-Brit semi-final at The British Open, you’d think Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid would have had enough of making history by now – well not these two.
By claiming victory over Gustavo Fernandez and Shingo Kunieda in straight sets in their US Open doubles semi-final the number two seeds added their names to a unique piece of sporting history becoming the victors in the first ever wheelchair tennis match to be played on Arthur Ashe.
It was a replay of their doubles semi-final last week out in St Louis, but the result was very different as it was Hewett and Reid who came out on top this time 6-3 6-2.
Reid, who won the men’s US open doubles title in 2015 with France’s Stephane Houdet, said: “It really is the stuff that dreams are made of, to play on Ashe. Hopefully it’s not the last time.
“I thought we played well. There were a couple of dips in it. We did the right things at the right time to win.”
Both pairs started well and held their first service games but it was the British pair who took advantage of the early break point.
Hewett, who was making his debut at this years US Open, starting to come into the net and showing just why he is such a threat there early on and the pair consolidating the break.
Fernandez and Kunieda fought their way back though, taking the next two games to level it at 3-3.
But that is when the cogs in the Hewett and Reid machine really started to turn,
Reid firing some stunning high quality returns from the baseline and Hewett prowling the net like a predator ready to snap at it’s prey and both combining their individual talents to show their quality and strength as a team.
And despite them giving us a scare at 5-3 up – well every good Alfie and Gordon match needs at least one scare doesn’t it – two unsuccessful challenges seeing them hand a break point to their opponents, which luckily was saved, they went on to take the first set.
The second set began with neither pair being able to hold their own serve during the first three games, Fernandez and Kunieda leading for the first time in the match.
At 2-1 down however Hewett and Reid went on another run – a five game one to be exact – to take the second set and subsequently the match and first spot in the doubles final
The result means that the Brits will now progress to their third 2017 Grand Slam doubles final together, their fourth in total with Hewett and Reid having partnered Fernandez and Joachim Gerard respectively to make it to the Australian Open final at the beginning of the year.
And there they’ll take on a duo they are used to seeing at the other side of the net in those finals – France’s Houdet and Nicolas Peifer – in what will be the third GB versus France Grand Slam final face-off of this year – the French pair having lifted the title at Roland Garros and the British duo triumphing in Wimbledon.
Another debut dreams are made of
Hewett wasn’t the only one to impress on his US Open debut.
Once he and Reid had finished on Arthur Ashe it was then time for the women doubles semi-final to take centre stage.
Britain’s Lucy Shuker and Japan’s Yui Kamiji, fresh from claiming their first doubles title together in St Louis last week, going head to head against US Open debutante Dana Mathewson and Aniek van Koot.
Shuker and Kamiji were by far the strongest as the match got underway, communicating well as a partnership and dominating the first set with an almost perfect display of tennis.
Mathewson and van Koot hit some impressive shots and were involved in some quality rallies but they just couldn’t get past the Shuker/Kamiji combination, with Shuker being allowed lots of space to shine at the net where she is dangerous and lethal.
And it took just 22 minutes for the number two seeds to take the first set 6-0.
But there was a momentum shift in the second set and with unforced errors creeping into their game, something which we’d barely seen in the first set from Shuker and Kamiji, Mathewson and van Koot pounced, breaking the Kamiji serve in the fifth game and racing to a 5-2 lead.
Shuker and Kamiji then closed the gap on their opponents, winning the next two games and it was up to van Koot to serve for the set.
With confidence now higher in the American-Dutch duo of Mathewson and van Koot, their energy shift made you feel that if they were going to lose this match they were going to do it on their own terms and not without a fight.
And fight they did, Mathewson playing incredibly smart in that last game of the second set and attacking Shuker at the baseline, keeping her from coming into the net too often with some clever shots down the line.
They took the second set and we were in to a match tie-break.
As with all tie-break situations a slow start can see you easily slip too far behind to rescue it and so you must be prepared to play your best tennis from the outset.
And it was Mathewson and van Koot who got off to the best start getting that early mini-break that proved crucial as the tie-break progressed, seeing them come from a set behind to take the match 0-6 6-4 10-5, a forehand down the centre line from Mathewson handing victory to the unseeded pair.
They now move onto the final where they’ll play formidable Dutch duo and top seeds Marjolein Buis and Diede de Groot, who came through their doubles semi-final against Sabine Ellerbrock and Kgothatso Montjane in straight sets 6-3 6-2.