US Open Day 14 | Can Alfie Hewett lift his second Grand Slam singles title?
If Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid’s US Open singles quarter-finals were rollercoaster rides their semi-final head-to-head was a white knuckle one.
Locked in an epic three hour battle, only a third set tie-break could separate them, and it was World number three Hewett who came out on top against his fellow Brit, World number two Reid 7-5, 5-7. 7-6 (8).
The standard of the tennis was high from both players, the competitive nature of the match in my opinion ranking it alongside some of the best Federer and Nadal face-offs.
Geoff Newton, Executive director of the Tennis Foundation, the charity who run the world class performance programme which Hewett and Reid are part of, was watching courtside.
He said: “This was one of the finest tennis matches I have seen – a great credit to both players and to our sport.
“Well done to both Alfie and Gordon.”
And with the British duo so close in the rankings there’s a feeling this won’t be the final time we’ll see them battle it out on some of tennis’ and the world’s biggest stages.
But this time it was Hewett who came through and in doing so he booked himself a spot in the singles final on his US Open debut, keeping hopes of him lifting what would be his second Grand Slam singles title alive.
How many match points?
Eleven match points were saved over the course of the all-Brit semi-final encounter, Hewett finally taking it on the twelfth match point, and his sixth.
But that was only the tip of the iceberg in this marathon meeting, which was full of momentum shifts and drama.
Hewett got off to the best start racing to a 3-0 lead, Reid double faulting in his opening service game to hand Hewett the break which the 19-year old then consolidated.
Reid then reset and took the next five, one of which ended in him breaking the Hewett serve to love.
Momentum now firmly with the British number one who was 5-3 up, it was left to Hewett to serve to keep himself in the first set.
A love service game hold for the British number two, finished off with an impressive ace, and the first set continued.
It was now Hewett’s turn to go on a run – a four game one to be exact – and despite Reid being able to save one set point, on the second it was game and first set Hewett.
Neither player could hold in their opening service games of the second set, but they followed the breaks up with service holds and we were at 2-2.
Hewett then took the next three games, hitting winner after winner down the line and coming into the net to show off his trademark smash.
Reid made some impressive saves to keep himself in the rallies but the constant bombardment from Hewett, who was now on one of his rolls, was just too much to handle.
Now himself 5-3 down, it was the British number one’s turn to make a comeback, and this he did, saving three match points in the process.
Going on an eight game run which saw him close out the second set with a love service hold and go 4-0 up in the third and deciding set.
It looked at one point that Reid was going to take final set with ease but with a reputation on the tour for never knowing when he is beaten, Hewett kicked himself back into action, ending Reid’s run with his very own love service game.
He then took the next two games before Reid in the eighth held his serve and we were greeted by a familiar friend – Reid was now 5-3 up and Hewett had to serve to keep himself in the set and this time the semi-final.
Hewett saved three match points to hold and got one more break of the Reid serve, before both players held to take it to 6-6 – a third set tie-break was going to decide the outcome.
And if you thought it was going to be any easier to watch than the three sets that went before it, you would have been wrong.
With Reid serving at 6-3 up in the breaker it looked to be all over for Hewett but he saved another three match points levelling it up at 6-6.
Hewett then failed to capitalise on two match points of his own at 7-6 and 8-7 before the breakthrough finally came – the teenager taking the tie-break 10-8 and progressing through to his second Grand Slam singles final of 2017.
So can he lift the title today?
Waiting for Hewett at the other side of the net in today’s final is the only player in the top ten who he hasn’t beaten in singles, France’s Stephane Houdet.
Their previous eight meetings have ended in victory for the current World number four, but Hewett has been getting pretty close to that first win recently and the last time they met at the 2017 Open de France, the match had to be decided by a tie-break.
Hewett is also a player who seems to thrive on momentum.
As we saw on his French Open debut each win gave him more confidence in his game, defeating Stefan Olsson, Shingo Kunieda and Gustavo Fernandez on the way to lifting the singles title.
And he’s a tough cookie on the tennis court, a fighter who will battle until that final point has been played.
It is however going to be a big ask for Hewett, who has already come through two long matches to get to this final.
Houdet is a strong player and the former world number one didn’t make his way to the top of the rankings and stay there for so long without having the skill to back up his success.
His pinpoint accuracy, especially with his serve, can sting any opponent into submission and with him having such a strong advantage over Hewett in the head-to-heads he is going to go in very confident.
Whatever happens later today though, win or lose Hewett can be proud of what he has achieved not just on his US Open debut, where he has already lifted a title with Reid in yesterday’s men’s doubles final, but also in his maiden year automaticallyy qualifying for all of the Grand Slams.
At 19-years-old having four Grand Slam titles to your name is no mean feat and if he’s tasting this level of success now, surely there’s no limit to what he can achieve in the future.