Alfie Hewett trying to remain calm ahead of Wimbledon debut
- Credit: Archant
Norfolk's wheelchair tennis star Alfie Hewett may be ranked as the world's number one junior player but his grand slam debut today will also be his first experience of competing at Wimbledon.
The 17-year-old is riding the crest of a wave ahead of his SW19 bow, having enjoyed an excellent season already.
Hewett, from Cantley, near Acle, won his first ITF Two Series men's singles title on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour, beating his latest world top-10 ranked opponent when winning the Internazionali d'Italia at Foro Italico in Rome.
He then also helped Great Britain's men secure an historic first World Group title at the BNP Paribas World Team Cup in Antalya, Turkey in his first senior international action in May.
His rapid progress earned a wildcard for the Wimbledon men's doubles, where he partners Belgium's Joachim Gerard against fellow British player Gordon Reid and his French partner Michael Jeremiasz in the semi-finals today.
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'It's been tough trying to keep everything under control,' Hewett admitted as he made his final preparation for his big match. 'So I've just been trying to prepare myself as best as possible by doing a bit more training on the grass courts than I would normally do, to try and find my rhythm and find the ball.
'It's the only tournament we play on grass so I've spent the last week training on grass and hitting more balls than usual and working on keeping my focus.'
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Those preparations have taken the former Acle High School pupil to the grass courts of Cromer Lawn Tennis & Squash Club and Roehampton National Tennis Centre, before getting his chance to practice at Wimbledon for the first time yesterday.
It is the first time the City College Norwich sports and exercise science student has ever been to the All England Club – but he is determined not to let the occasion daunt him.
'I always believe that if I play how I know I can play, then there is now reason why I can't win,' Hewett continued.
'We got the easier semi, in that we missed the number one seeds, but I'm not going to go in saying 'we're going to win it' – I'm just going to do my best to enjoy it and learn from it, and if I do that, I hope we can do well.
'Maybe in a few years time I will go in to these matches as favourite, if things go to plan, but for now I'm just going to try and enjoy it.'
The winners of Hewett's semi-final will play either two-time defending champions Stephane Houdet of France and Shingo Kunieda of Japan or two-time French Open finalists Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina and Nicolas Peifer of France in tomorrow's final.