Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid will bid for a hat-trick of Wimbledon men’s wheelchair doubles titles on Saturday at the All England Club after coming through a thrilling final set tie-break on the grass of SW19 on Friday.
The Brits beat Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina and Shingo Kunieda of Japan 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(3) to huge acclaim from an excitable home crowd as the reigning Wimbledon and US Open champions remained on course for yet another Grand Slam title.
There were a lot of ups and downs, a lot of tired bodies out there especially at the end but I think overall it was a really high quality doubles match and obviously we are both really buzzing to get the win. Gordon Reid
From 3-1 down Hewett and Reid won the next four games before taking the opening set as Hewett put away a forehand winner on their sixth set point.
It was Fernandez and Kunieda’s turn to come from 3-1 down as they forced the deciding set, but Hewett and Reid emulated their first set performance after once again finding themselves 3-1 down in the final set and they reeled off the next four games. Fernandez served for the match at 6-5 but Hewett and Reid would not be denied, breaking their opponents to love.
With the tension mounting on Court 17 Hewett and Reid built momentum after sharing the first six points with Fernandez and Kunieda and at 5-3 up Hewett fired an unreturnable serve to bring up three set points. The defending champions only needed the first as Fernandez sent a backhand into the net. Hewett and Reid have now beaten Fernandez and Kunieda in their last three doubles semi-finals, including at Wimbledon in 2017.
Speaking after the match Reid reflected on how the momentum had changed numerous times, as well as the impact the home crowd had in helping the duo secure the win: “There were a lot of ups and downs, a lot of tired bodies out there especially at the end but I think overall it was a really high quality doubles match and obviously we are both really buzzing to get the win.”
“When you need that little bit extra to pick you up when you are a little bit tired or when it’s close or there’s a big point, that reaction from the crowd gets the adrenaline flowing gets the heart rate up and really pulls you over the line. It’s a massive help and I think it’s been unbelievable in our singles and doubles seeing how popular it’s been and seeing people queuing up and standing on the next court to try and watch”.
Hewett had gone into the match with the disappointment of having lost his single semi-final against defending champion Stefan Olsson earlier in the day, with the Swede prevailing 6-2, 6-4, and said: “I think Gordon did a really good job at picking me up, I was a little bit flat to start with. I was really disappointed after this morning but I think our reactions at the end showed how much it meant to us.”
“We know when we are playing well what we are doing and what we need to do to play well so it was just reinforcing that. There were times in the match where we just lacked a little bit of intensity and aggression on the court but when we stepped up to the ball and really took it on that’s when we won our games.”
Hewett and Reid will have different opponents than in their last two Wimbledon finals after Belgium’s Joachim Gerard and Stefan Olsson of Sweden defeated French top seeds Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 in the other semi-final.
Looking ahead to the final, Reid said: “They are two guys who have got big serves and are effective on grass. They like to come forward and rush in and take your time away. We’ve played them a few times over the last 12-18 months so we know what to expect and we know the right things to do to combat it.”
“When its live on TV like last year it’s an amazing opportunity for us to showcase the sport and we are really happy that we might get another chance to do that tomorrow”.
There could yet be a second British finalist this weekend, with Lucy Shuker and Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock leading Dutch duo Marjolein Buis and Aniek van Koot 3-1 in the deciding set of their women’s doubles semi-final before bad light caused the match to be suspended. Shuker and Ellerbrock will finish their semi-final on Saturday.