ALFIE Hewett secured an emotional first Australian Open men’s wheelchair singles title at Melbourne Park today to strengthen his hold on the world No.1 ranking after a scintillating performance that ended in a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Japan’s world No.4 Tokito Oda.
His victory gives him both the singles and doubles titles in successive days.
Contesting his third successive Australian Open singles final, Hewett managed to resist the big serving game of 16-year-old Oda to come from 3-1 down in the opening set, with a backhand down the line winner wrapping up the first set in 41 minutes.
With Hewett increasingly in command, despite some prodigious shots from Oda, and impressing with his own array of shots, forehand winners from the Brit sealed the fourth and fifth games of the second set and he finished off a tremendous performance with an ace, followed closely by tears of happiness.
Now a 23-time champion at the majors after winning his fourth successive Australian Open men’s doubles title with Gordon Reid on Friday, Hewett said:
“For me, this was one heck of a battle, really – mentally more than anything. Those tears you saw there were like seven years in the making.
“I remember my first time on this court, three or four years ago and I think I cried after that, as well, because I’d just won my first (singles) match here, which too me after four years, too.
“To make two finals and lose in three sets in those, it really starts to eat up at you over some time, so to get the opportunity to come out here today and get the win and finally get my hands on that trophy is something I’m very proud of. I couldn’t do it without you guys.” (gesturing to his team).
After paying tribute to his coaches Craig Allen, Ben Collingwood and his girlfriend, Hewett, who is supported by the LTA’s Elite Wheelchair Programme, added in his on-court interview:
“You’ve given me probably one of the roughest pre-seasons I’ve ever had, so I won’t be enjoying that this December but it was all worth it, so thank you for your time and commitment.
“Obviously the LTA, Rob (Cross) is here, but there are a lot of guys back at home, as well, who have put in a lot of effort to help me be physically, mentally and emotionally prepare for this match and this tournament.
“So, I’m just really happy. What a way to kick off the year. I’ve absolutely loved my time here and thank you all for supporting wheelchair tennis. I hope that in future years you continue to watch.”
Hewett’s latest Grand Slam success not only takes him to 23 Grand Slam titles in singles and doubles, one more than doubles partner Gordon Reid, it also sees him become the most successful British wheelchair player in singles competition at the majors as he now surpasses the six titles, two at the US Open and four at the Australian Open, won by Peter Norfolk in quad singles between 2007 and 2012.