Older and wiser – Alfie Hewett is ready for his Wimbledon return
- Credit: Akira Ando
His first Wimbledon experience may have proved tough going but Alfie Hewett heads back to SW19 full of fresh confidence and added wisdom.
The 18-year-old competes in the first ever wheelchair singles competition held at the grand slam event when the quarter-finals start today.
Hewett, from Cantley, near Acle, faces world number two Joachim Gerard – a man he knows well.
The City College Norwich student partnered the 27-year-old Belgian in the doubles at Wimbledon last year, where they were beaten in the third-place play-off.
Losing 7-6 (11-9) 3-6 7-6 to fellow British player Gordon Reid and Michael Jeremiasz in the semi-final was followed by a 2-6 7-5 6-0 defeat to Stephan Houdet and Shingo Kunieda.
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'I definitely learned a lot in terms of how to be on court,' Hewett said. 'I think last year a lot of emotion went into how I played and I could see that when I looked back on the video.
'When I was on court a lot of emotion was showing and that's quite exhausting, and something I've been working on a lot with my sports psychologist recently.
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'So this year I'm going to try and be a bit calmer, be a bit more relaxed. I think I definitely played well last year, it was one of my best performances, maybe that was a lot to do with the emotion and adrenaline on the court, but I think in order for me to cut out the negative side of things and not let me spiral into negative patterns I need to be a bit more focused and relaxed.'
Since last year's Wimbledon the former Acle High School pupil has risen to number 10 in the world singles rankings, as well as number six in the doubles.
Even if he cannot get past Gerard today Hewett will return to action tomorrow, when he can expect plenty of home support when partnering Reid against Gerard and Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina.
The Norfolk teen goes into those battles in good spirits though, having won the Korea Open and played a key part as Great Britain won World Team Cup bronze in Japan recently.
'Last year as a whole there were some really good performances in there but it wasn't consistently and I feel maybe I needed to make some improvements in terms of training and my support team to make that more consistent and I did that at Christmas time,' Hewett continued.
'With some good training blocks in I've been able to find that consistency and ever since February I've had a better consistent performance rate and you can see that in my results. Even against the guys I'm not beating, I'm taking sets off them, whereas last year I would take games off them.
'I feel like I'm moving in the right direction, I think I've progressed a lot from last year.'
Hewett also helps to make history by playing in the first wheelchair singles at Wimbledon – and feels his sport is riding the crest of a wave.
'Even from when I started the sport, it's come such a long way in terms of even players being recognised,' he added.
'Jordanne Whiley, Gordon Reid, they are players who are being recognised now and people might know who they are if you are having a conversation now.
'Locally I'm getting the publicity as well, so wheelchair tennis is definitely growing. But I think we deserve it.'
Hewett and Gerard are scheduled for the third match on court 17, with play starting at 11am