Closing in on world number one spot is ‘quite scary’ admits Alfie Hewett
PUBLISHED: 12:02 14 December 2017 | UPDATED: 12:02 14 December 2017
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Being a single title away from becoming Britain’s latest tennis world number one is, Alfie Hewett admits, a little scary.
It is the speed of his ascent that has taken Hewett by surprise.
The Cantley prodigy only turned 20 last week and has just finished his first full season as one of wheelchair tennis’ elites.
And what a season it has been. Hewett won five singles titles, including his first grand slam at the French Open, and added two slam doubles crowns with Gordon Reid.
After beating Reid to win the NEC Masters in Loughborough earlier this month, Hewett is less than 300 points behind current number one Gustavo Fernandez.
Should he win the Australian Open, he would join Andy Murray, Jamie Murray and Reid in making it four British world number ones in two seasons.
“For me it’s actually quite scary,” Hewett said.
“I didn’t believe I’d be in this position so soon. Before the Masters, although I was two, I wasn’t really within touching distance, but now I’m one tournament away. That’s a different pressure.
“One part of me is thinking, ‘oh my God, you’re so close to becoming number one, a lifetime goal, that would mean so much to so many people’. And the other part is, ‘you’re so close, just go and get it, don’t let anything stop you’.
“That’s what I’m trying to do. It’s nerve-wracking but what I’ve done in my career so far is try to seize opportunities and if it doesn’t happen at least I know I’ve gone for it, not shied away from it, because that’s not who I am as a person or a player.”
Shy is certainly not a word to describe Hewett on court.
There is something of Andy Murray about his feisty and sometimes petulant demeanour but determination to find a way.
He saved two match points before coming back to beat Fernandez in the final at Roland Garros while he and Reid thrilled Court 3 at Wimbledon with an epic victory in the doubles final.
“I’ve tried to be this calm, collected, show-no-emotions guy, and it just doesn’t work,” said Hewett, who picked up the sport 12 years ago after attending a Tennis Foundation camp.
“It bottles up and eventually I’ll end up doing something 10 times bigger. I’m trying to learn to channel that and, for me, it’s about reacting to whatever emotion I’m feeling but then move on.
“Even though I do the funny faces and swearing and whatever, 90 per cent of the time I’m ready for the next point.”
A feature of this season has been the rivalry between Hewett and Scot Reid.
After Reid’s stellar 2016 - two grand slam singles, top spot in the rankings and victory over Hewett to win Paralympic gold in Rio - the 26-year-old has been usurped by his young compatriot.
Hewett has won four of their seven meetings in 2017, including the last three, with the highlight an epic 7-5 5-7 7-6 (10/8) victory in the US Open semi-finals.
“He’s been a great mentor,” said Hewett. “I’ve learned a lot from him. I still look up to him. Maybe he learns from me now, I don’t know.
“At the start I found it tough playing him. After Rio that mentality changed, so maybe getting quite heavily beaten was a good thing.
“I’ve had some really strong performances this year and we’ve had some great matches. I don’t think I’ll ever have a match like that US Open one with another player because we just know what each other is going to do.”