US Open Day 12 | Reid and Hewett set up an all-Brit semi-final showdown
What’s the difference between a Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett US Open singles quarter-final match and a being on a rollercoaster?
They all give us ups and downs, have our pulses racing and scare us and delight us in equal measure.
And what’s more we keep going back for more of the action despite telling ourselves we can’t go through it again.
Both Reid and Hewett had to come from a set behind in their respective US Open men’s singles quarter-final matches to book themselves a semi-final spot.
Reid defeating Belgium’s Joachim Gerard 6-7(5), 6-4 6-1 and Hewett claiming victory over six time US Open champion Shingo Kunieda 4-6 6-4 6-3.
And their reward for making it through those matches is to go head to head against each other in what will be the first ever all-British Grand Slam wheelchair tennis semi-final.
And while this means we are guaranteed to see a British player in the 2017 US Open men’s singles final whatever the result, with both Reid and Hewett fierce competitors and so closely matched in skill and determination it does not guarantee they will make it easy for us to watch when they arrive on Grandstand for their semi-final showdown.
Reid’s three set thriller
Reid’s US Open debut in 2013 began with a three set quarter-final victory over Gerard and it was the Belgian who was at the other side of the net again four years on.
And going into the 2017 quarter-final there was nothing separating them when it came to their previous 20 meetings, both Reid and Gerard having won ten of the head-to-heads each, so it was always going to be close.
Reid got the early break in the second game of the first set but failed to consolidate and Gerard broke back immediately, following it up with a love service hold.
Play remained on serve until the ninth game of the set when the Belgian broke the British number one’s serve for a second time going 5-4 up and needing only to hold his next service game to close out the first set.
But Reid wasn’t going to go a set down without a fight and he broke back immediately, the next two games staying on serve and taking it into a tie-break – close fought but eventually won by Gerard 7-5.
The second set was just as tight as the first, nothing separating the two players until Reid broke the Gerard serve in the seventh game and this time he consolidated it.
With the Brit 5-3 up it was up to Gerard to serve to keep himself in the set.
A Gerard hold kept those watching on the edge of their seat but when the question was asked of Reid to serve it out his response was perfect, a love service game for the World number two handing him the second set and forcing the decider.
Scotland’s Reid then went on to dominate the deciding set booking his place in the semi-final and keeping his singles title hopes on track.
Reid said: “I’m very happy to come through a tough match against Jo today.
“Sometimes, to get the win it’s more about the desire rather than the quality of the tennis and that was the case in the final set today.
“There were definitely positives to take forward from the match into the semi tomorrow against Alfie, which will be a great occasion and one I can’t wait for.”
An Alfie classic
How far behind does Alfie Hewett have to be in a match before the worry sets in?
Certainly not a set and 2-0 down as he proved to us yet again in his US Open singles debut and quarter-final against former World number one, Japan’s Kunieda.
But in a match that was reminiscent of a tug-of-war the fact that we saw twelve games going to deuce and the number of breaks of serve going into double figures proves just how competitive an encounter it was.
And with momentum shifts galore in a match which lasted well over two hours there was excitement and frustration in equal measure.
In fact if you had any finger nails left by the time it was over you were one of the lucky ones.
Hewett went 3-1 down at the start of the first set, Shingo pushing him further and further back from the baseline with each point and stopping him from firing some of those fearless shots at the net that have become one of the 19-year-olds trademarks.
But then the British number two started to play smart, opening up the court then going for the winners down the line and starting a run of three straight games to put him 4-3 up and ahead for the first time in the match.
However, there was still one more turn left for the first set to take as Kunieda took the next three games and subsequently the opening set, despite Hewett saving four set points.
The second set was just as nail-biting as the first, Kunieda building on the momentum he had at the end of the first.
After having his opening service game of the set broken though, Hewett started attacking the Kunieda serve with some quality returns and ended the former World number one’s five game run, breaking back immediately.
At 4-4 it was all hanging in the balance but with the unforced errors started creeping into Kunieda’s game it was Hewett who took control, the final two games of the set going his way to force the decider.
Surging into a 5-2 lead in the third set it looked like Hewett, similar to his compatriot Reid, was going to take the decider with ease.
However there was one more twist left in the tale and the double faults which had haunted the World number three’s game in previous sets began to creep back in as he served out for the set and the match.
Hewett had two match points in that service game which Kunieda saved before taking advantage of his fourth break point, keeping his US Open hopes alive, if all but briefly.
The British number two then quickly reset and with one of his trademark volleys broke the Kunieda serve in the next game, taking the match and his place in the final four.
Hewett said: “Shingo played well and it was hard to break him down. He’s a great competitor and athlete so it was always going to be a tough match.
“I’m happy how I fought, I didn’t feel like it was one of my best matches, but I dug deep so I am happy with that.”
Lapthorne still on track
Britain’s top quads player, Andy Lapthorne is still on track to do the double in New York despite losing his singles match to the World number one David Wagner, who he is playing alongside in the quads doubles final, in straight sets 6-2 6-4.
Thanks to his phenomenal win over Australia’s Dylan Alcott in his opening match all he has to do to guarantee himself a spot in the quad final is get past Bryan Barten, a player who has never lost to in all seven of their previous meetings in his third and final singles round-robin match.
Lapthorne said: “It was a frustrating match and I put too many balls down the middle of the court.
“It was a big ask after yesterdays result against Dylan, but it’s time to recharge and go again tomorrow in the hope of making the final.”
In the women’s draw it wasn’t to be for Britain’s Lucy Shuker in her singles quarter-final.
Drawn against Yui Kamiji, a player who she has never beaten, it was always going to be a tough ask for Shuker and she lost out to the World number one in straight sets 6-1 6-0