Win alludes Norfolk’s Alfie Hewett on his enjoyable Wimbledon bow
As Alfie Hewett made his Wimbledon debut, sports reporter David Freezer was on hand to experience the teen’s big break.
Many of Wimbledon’s greatest success stories have started with disappointment – and Alfie Hewett could well be at the beginning of his own fairytale story at SW19.
The Norfolk youngster demonstrated plenty of quality and determination when making his grand slam debut at the All England Club this weekend, eventually ending in defeat in the men’s wheelchair doubles third-place play-off.
The 17-year-old does not have to look far for inspiration though.
British number one Andy Murray lost in the third round of the men’s singles as an 18-year-old and fourth the following year – but now has one title, one runners-up trophy and four semi-finals on his Wimbledon record.
Alfie relished ‘amazing’ first grand slam event
Defeat may have been hard to take for Alfie Hewett but the 17-year-old knows he will be stronger for his first Wimbledon experience.
The City College Norwich pupil was making his grand slam debut, competing in the men’s wheelchair doubles, but has high hopes of competing at many more high profile tournaments.
A visibly tired Hewett said: “I enjoyed every minute of this tournament. I had a great match on Saturday, it was an epic match and I was a bit tired from that.
“But we showed great character to come back from that and come out of the blocks and at one set and 4-3 up, we just couldn’t finish it off. But it’s been an amazing experience.”
The world junior number one was playing on court 17, in the shadow of Centre Court, where the men’s singles final was being played out by Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
That match went to a hugely exciting tie-break in the second set, which Federer won 12-10, prompting huge cheers at SW19 – just as Hewett was serving to take his match to 2-2 in the second set.
“I was thinking; ‘jeez, has Federer won?’” Hewett said.
“It was difficult to concentrate, I kind of wanted someone to shout out what the score was! But it was good to hear that and experience that.”
With family and friends watching him throughout the weekend, the Cantley star will remember his debut at the All England Club for a long time, particularly after his narrow semi-final defeat.
“I came off knowing I’ve played the best I’ve ever played,” Hewett continued.
“I came off and had no regrets. I gave it my all, I’m not going to make every shot so I was really happy but really disappointed. Then I was hoping we’d get third spot but at a set and 4-3 up, it just wasn’t to be unfortunately.”
Hewett can continue to dream of matching Murray’s feats on home soil though, after managing something the Scottish star has often struggled to achieve – a smile.
The former Acle High School pupil was clearly enjoying himself in yesterday’s third-place play-off, maintaining his broad grin even when fortunes on the court turned sour.
Alongside his Belgian partner, 26-year-old Joachim Gerard, the world junior number one was beaten in the semi-finals 7-6 (11-9), 3-6, 7-6 (7-4) by fellow Brit Gordon Reid and Michael Jeremiasz on Saturday.
That put the pair into the third-place clash, against Stephane Houdet of France and Japan’s Shingo Kunieda – the world wheelchair singles number one, with a large following from his homeland watching on.
All seemed to be going swimmingly for Hewett when Gerard made a blistering start to the game. The teenager more than played his part as the duo rushed to a 6-2 first set success, with the City College Norwich student hitting an excellent long shot for 40-15 in the deciding game of the set, also holding both his service games.
Played beside the imposing structures of Centre Court and Court One – and the inevitable loud cheers from those showpiece stadiums – the match retained a great atmosphere.
With friends, family and even some pupils from Mattishall Primary School taking time out from their trip to cheer on a local lad, Hewett will take away lots of happy memories.
The second set was far tougher though, with Houdet and Kunieda – aged 44 and 31 respectively – finding their form just as victory looked to be likely for Hewett and Gerard.
The Cantley teenager hit a winner to break their opponents’ serve and move 4-3 up in the second set. However, Houdet and Kunieda would go on to win eight of the next 10 games and win 2-6, 7-5, 6-0.
The tough weekend caught up with Hewett and his partner, when success had seemed within touching distance on more than one occasion amongst the buzz of the famous courts.
The technique and anticipation from all of the men’s wheelchair players really was impressive though and anyone who gets a chance to take in some of the matches at a tournament should give it a look.
With a bit of luck, Norfolk’s rising tennis star could well be in action to add to the excitement.