Trademark fightback keeps Hewett on track for second Masters title
PUBLISHED: 12:22 25 November 2019 | UPDATED: 12:22 25 November 2019
Norfolk’s Alfie Hewett will contest his second NEC Wheelchair Singles Masters men’s singles final in a row today after a tremendous fightback to beat world No.2 Shingo Kunieda of Japan 2-6, 6-3 6-3 in Sunday’s semi-finals at the International Tennis Federation’s year-end championships.
Former City of Norwich pupil, Hewett, became the youngest winner of the year-end men's singles championship on home soil in Loughborough in 2017 before missing last year's event in the wake of winning the first of his two US Open titles.
However, after beating two-time champion Stefan Olsson of Sweden 6-4, 6-2 in his must-win third and final round-robin pool match in Orlando, world No. 6 Hewett went on to level his career head-to-head against 22-time Grand Slam singles champion Kunieda at eight wins apiece. Hewett, who will play defending champion Joachim Gerard of Belgium in today's final in Orlando, said: "Shingo came out and played some unbelievable tennis in that first set. He returned so strong and I couldn't really get a look in on my service game and that was the difference, but I still felt like I was playing well, I just wasn't taking my chances.
"I hoped his level would come down a peg or two and thankfully it happened.
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"Once I noticed midway through the second set that his balls were coming short and he wasn't so attacking, I knew that's where I wanted the match to be and I stopped up a level after that."
Hewett, from Cantley, whose only loss at the 2017 NEC Masters was to Kunieda in the round-robin phase of the competition, added: "To turn it around shows great mentality and courage not to give up.
"To be in the final is really pleasing, not just for myself, but for my team and everyone around me that's supported me. It gives you good confidence going into Paralympic year in 2020.
"To get to final two times in a row is great. It's going to be a tough match, but whatever happens I'm so proud of myself for coming through the group stage and for that performance today."