Alfie Hewett comes back from set down to win French Open
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Alfie Hewett became the first British winner of a men’s wheelchair singles title at the French Open with a dramatic victory over defending champion Gustavo Fernandez.
The 19-year-old from Cantley, near Acle lost the first eight games and saved two match points in the second-set tie-break before going on to win 0-6 7-6 (11/9) 6-2.
Hewett said: “I played him a week and a half ago in another final and I was 6-0 3-0 down, and when it went 6-0 2-0 this time I was thinking, ‘Oh no, here we go again’.
“But I remembered coming back that time so I knew I could come back, and when it got to that tie-break, it was very up and down, he had I don’t know how many match points, I had set points.
“Mentally that was a big positive for me to just keep in there and hold out. I felt good after I won that second set. I knew I needed to get off to a good start in the third and when that happened I just grew in confidence.”
Hewett showed his nerves in the first set, making far too many errors as Argentinian Fernandez clinched the set in just 17 minutes.
The British player, ranked seventh, finally got on the board in the third game of the second set and it was nip and tuck after he fought back from 3-1 to make it 3-3.
The tie-break proved to be the decisive moment, with Fernandez, who beat Scot Gordon Reid in last year’s final, unable to take either of his two chances.
Hewett carried his momentum into the third set to add his first grand slam singles title to double Paralympic silver from Rio last summer and a Wimbledon doubles title.
There were a few tears but no great outpouring of emotion from Hewett as he had a double finals to play a couple of hours later. But it was not to be a double celebration with Hewett and his partner Reid losing 6-4 6-3 to world number one’s France’s Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer.
Celebrations on Saturday night will be limited to a pizza before he heads home to see his parents, brother and sister, who were following from the UK.
“I can’t imagine what they were feeling in that second set tie-break,” said Hewett.
“I’ve always believed I can beat anyone on my day. Clay is one of my favourite surfaces. Norwich only has about three clay courts but there’s something about it I love.
“I had a good feeling about this week. This time last year I was outside the top 10, hadn’t really won anything.
“A year on I’ve got two silver medals, Wimbledon doubles champion and now singles grand slam at Roland Garros. I can’t believe it.”
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