GREAT Britain’s men’s wheelchair tennis team won their qualification event in Turkey to secure their place at the wheelchair tennis World Team Cup Finals in May.
Dubbed the world cup of wheelchair tennis, the event is the ITF’s flagship team wheelchair tennis event and the equivalent of the Davis Cup for men and Billie Jean King Cup for women.
The GB team secured their place in the showpiece event with wins over Germany in the pool stage and then Sweden in the semi-final, before coming from behind to take a deciding doubles match and defeat Israel in the final.
The British team was headed by world No.1 Alfie Hewett, from Norfolk, and British No.3 Dermot Bailey, from Northamptonshire.
The duo were joined by 16-year-olds Ben Bartram, from Norfolk, and Dahnon Ward, from Derbyshire, with all four players are supported through the LTA’s Wheelchair Tennis Performance Pathway.
Teenagers Bartram and Ward both made their senior national team debuts in Turkey to join a select group of LTA Colour Holders by becoming the 315th and 316th players ever to have played tennis for Britain.
In windy, dusty conditions on the clay courts in Antalya, Bartram got Britain off to the perfect start in the pool match against Germany with a 62 61 win over World No.129 Sven Hiller.
Newly crowned World No.1 Hewett then backed up his team-mate’s win with a dominant performance of his own – beating World No.48 Anthony Dittmar 61 61. Bailey and Ward then teamed up for the doubles to beat Dittmar and Christoph Wilkes 62 63 and round off a perfect tie for the Brits.
Speaking after their maiden wins against Germany, Bartram and Ward said: “We are both proud to have been selected by the LTA to play our first matches for the senior World Team Cup team. It was difficult conditions today in the wind but it’s great that we helped the team win 3-0, and move forwards to the semi-finals”.
The team then secured a place in the final after victory against Sweden on Sunday, with Bailey defeating World No.112 Hampus Linder-Olofsson 60 62, and Hewett beating World No.1 and former two-time Wimbledon singles champion Stefan Olsson 61 60.
Monday’s final saw Israel go 1-0 up with World No.38 Adam Berdichevsky beating Bailey 62 64 before Hewett then levelled the tie with a comprehensive 60 60 victory over Israel’s No.1 Guy Sasson.
Norfolk duo Hewett and Bartram then combined to take the deciding doubles 64 63 against Sasson and Berdichevsky, and in the process secure Great Britain’s men’s place in Portugal.
The success of the British men in qualifying means Great Britain will have a full representation of teams for the 2022 edition of the finals in Vilamoura from May 2-8 with the men joining Britain’s women’s quads and junior teams who had all secured automatic qualification based on their performances at last year’s finals.
However, a combination of injury and illness resulted in Great Britain being forced to withdraw from the men’s competition in 2021 and therefore needing to contest the qualification event this year in order to try and earn their place for the World Group.
The men’s team have a strong track record of recent success at the World Team Cup Finals, winning the title for the first time in 2015 before earning victory again in 2019, after a bronze medal in 2016 and silver medals in 2017 and 2018.
Hewett, who was part of all those teams, spoke after helping the team qualify, said: “I’m delighted for the team to make it through to the main event. We were favourites going into qualifying and conditions haven’t made it easy at times, but we did our jobs as a squad and now we can look ahead to having a pop at regaining the trophy.”
Meanwhile Bailey, who won two of his three matches over the week, added: “It’s always an honour to represent GB, and it’s great to be part of a team event instead of playing as an individual on tour.
“Although I’ve had some up and down performances here the bigger picture was for the team to qualify and that’s job done. I’m looking forward to putting on the team colours again in Vilamoura in May.”
To find out more about wheelchair tennis and the LTA’s wider disability tennis work, visit lta.org.uk