Heartache for Alfie Hewett after defeat in first Wimbledon singles final

Alfie Hewett poses with his trophy his match against Shingo Kunieda during The Final of the Gentleme

Alfie Hewett poses with his trophy - Credit: PA

It was a case of so close, yet so far for Norfolk's Alfie Hewett in his first Wimbledon singles final.

The Cantley tennis ace served for the championship four times during a gruelling match with World Number One Shingo Kunieda in the wheelchair singles final in SW19.

However, after three hours and 20 minutes of intense competition, it was the Japanese ace who came away with his 28th grand slam triumph - and first in the spiritual home of tennis.

Roared on by the home crowd - including some in Norwich City shirts - 24-year-old Hewett narrowly took the first set by six games to four.

Alfie Hewett in action against Shingo Kunieda during The Final of the Gentlemen's Wheelchair Singles

Alfie Hewett in action against Shingo Kunieda during The Final of the Gentlemen's Wheelchair Singles on day fourteen of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2022. - Credit: PA

And in the second set, the Norfolk boy served for the championship, before his resilient opponent showed precisely why he was already a 27-time grand slam champion - taking the next three games to claim the second set 7-5.

However, with the crowd well and truly in his corner, Hewett raised his game in the third set to storm into a three-game-to-love lead.

Kunieda then broke serve to pull one game back, before Hewett broke back to go 4-1 up in the deciding third set.

Most Read

Despite Hewett saving three break points in the following game, Kuneida was then able to close to gap to 4-2 as the game closed in on its third hour.

Alfie Hewett in action against Shingo Kunieda during The Final of the Gentlemen's Wheelchair Singles

Alfie Hewett in action against Shingo Kunieda during The Final of the Gentlemen's Wheelchair Singles on day fourteen of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2022. - Credit: PA

Hewett would go on the serve for the match two more times, but his opponent refused to be beaten and after a dramatic final set tiebreaker, took the crown, breaking Norfolk hearts along the way.

Following the match, a despondent Hewett described his opponent as "one of the best wheelchair tennis players we will ever see, past, present to future".

He said: "I'm obviously gutted - that one is going to sting for a while. It has been incredible this week to get wheelchair tennis on court number one and get the number of spectators there that we had.

"I will reflect on this for a while, but now I need a break."

He added it was a "tough defeat" to take - pointing to the chances he had in the second and third set to serve it out.

“I’m pretty disappointed not to step up to the occasion. But I think a lot of credit goes to Shingo who put a massive, massive effort to come back and not give up," he said.

“I think today, it's not even the tennis I'm happy about - it's the way I was able to get out of bed this morning when I've never felt like this before, to be able to compete for another three hours and a bit. I went to a mental place that I've probably never been before."

Despite the defeat, Hewett remained positive and described the experience as "incredible".

He said: “Obviously it's Wimbledon and it's the home support, but it's been a difficult couple of days. Amazing couple of days, don't get me wrong. It's come at a price.

“It’s an absolutely incredible experience I've had this year. I've reached the final for the first time, which I've struggled with. I was two points away from maybe getting my hands on the title.

“I gave it everything out there. No one can take that away from me. I’m proud of my efforts.”

Around 24 hours prior to the singles final, he and doubles partner Gordon Reid saw their hopes of winning an 11th consecutive grand slam title dashed.

The pair, who had won the last 10 grand slam tournaments, were beaten by Kuneida and his partner Gustavo Fernandez in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1.

However, while this was his first solo appearance in a Wimbledon final, he has tasted glory in glam slam finals before.

His first singles grand slam came in 2017, when he claimed the French Open title - a feat he replicated in 2020 and 2021.

He is also a two-time US Open champion, winning consecutive titles at Flushing Meadows in 2018 and 2019.

For more information on the LTA’s British Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships click here.