It’s not every day that Britain’s Alfie Hewett sums up one of his matches as “everything he had hoped for”.
At times he can be his own worst critic but after a commanding on-court display in his US Open quarter-final even the world No 3 himself couldn’t find anything major to be critical about when it came to his performance on court.
His 6-0 6-2 victory over compatriot Gordon Reid sending a message to the rest of the men’s draw that he means business when it comes to defending his 2019 singles title.
Speaking to Sky Sports he said: “It was a strong performance and after everything that’s going on in the world, over six months waiting around for another match, and the anticipation for this event to come out and play like that in the first round of a Grand Slam when you haven’t played competitively since February, I’m giving myself some credit for once.”
But it wasn’t just Hewett’s tennis that impressed. Both last week at the LTA Wheelchair Tennis Series event and here in New York it’s clear that he’s used the time he’s been given while in lockdown to work on the mental side of his game too.
“It sounds ridiculous but how I am emotionally during the game was obviously quite clear even to spectators in the past,” he said.
“I’ve been working with a new psychologist since February and she’s managed to tear me apart for the last 16 weeks and really get underneath the skin of who I am and why I react in certain ways and kind of change that a little bit.
“Massive credit to her because when I was out there today it didn’t feel like I was letting my emotions get the better of me, I mean I know that’s easy to say when you’re love and two up but even then you still get moments in any match, win or lose, where you can be a bit ropey or lose your temper and get angry with parts of your game. But there was no moment like that where I crossed my line today.”
The 10-time Grand Slam champion was told last year that he would not be able to carry on playing wheelchair tennis professionally beyond 2020 because his disability was not regarded as severe enough under new classification rules.
However, following the postponement of the Paralympics to next summer, the International Tennis Federation has followed suit and allowed Hewett and other players in the same situation to continue competing until the end of 2021.
The 22-year-old, who was diagnosed with Perthes Disease at the age of six, said: “That’s obviously great news. At least I can carry on playing for another 15 months or so. Hopefully there can be decisions overturned.”
The only match he has lost at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center was the singles final on his debut in 2017.
“I love it here,” said Hewett, who was due to face second seed Gustavo Fernandez in the semi-finals on Friday.
“I don’t even know why I play so well to be honest. I just must have this confidence that when I step on a New York court I do well.”
Like Hewett, Andy Lapthorne knows the importance of conquering your own mindset.
Heading to New York as the defending singles champion in the quads division, British No 1 Lapthorne had to dig deep to come out on top against David Wagner 6-2 2-6 6-4.
And whilst a rain delay when he was 3-2 down in the third set played its part in helping him to reset and reclaim the momentum he had lost, he also credits photographs of two moments in his career that give him the push he needs in training and on court.
“The first is the Wimbledon singles final runners-up picture and the second the Rio Paralympics runners-up one because they show the biggest failures of my career as I see it,” he said.
“Those moments are the reasons why I’ve started to come through the matches because there was a time I would have lost a match like today’s against David and not looked within myself to find a way through.
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