Wimbledon 2023: “It’s the title that every player in the world wants to win” - Alfie Hewett prepares to battle for a first singles title
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Last year’s men’s wheelchair singles runner-up Alfie Hewett has touched down in SW19, with one goal in mind: to get his hands on a career-first Wimbledon title.
The Brit came within touching distance of the silverware at last year’s Championships but missed out in gripping third set tie-break against former world No.1 Shingo Kunieda.
Having come away with plenty of lessons learnt from last year’s tournament, the world No.2 is back on home soil and hungry to fight for the trophy.
“It’s a special place for anyone to come and play,” Hewett said. “For me, it’s obviously the tradition and the prestige of it being a home Grand Slam.”
“It’s the title that every player in the world wants to win but as a British player, it’s probably the one to really knuckle down on and prepare well and try and do as best as you can.
"It’s a special one as a British player, having family and friends who can come down and support. It’s not often they can come down and watch me play, they’re usually stuck watching behind a laptop – it’s meaningful for many different reasons.”
Hewett’s year got off to the perfect start after he secured a long-awaited Australian Open singles title in January with a straight sets victory over Japan’s Tokito Oda.
Since then, he’s gone on to earn a further three-tour level singles titles, seven doubles titles – including the Australian Open and French Open doubles trophies – and has led Great Britain to World Team Cup glory, placing him in fine form ahead of his feature in London.
“It’s been a great season for me. I’ve had some big success and probably the best start to a season I’ve ever had, so I’m just trying to ride that wave to maintain that and be as consistent as I possibly can. This week is another opportunity to carry that on.”
The 25-year-old has already tasted success during this summer’s grass court swing, having picked up the men’s doubles title at the cinch Championships alongside Gordon Reid, as well as finishing runner-up in the singles.
“I feel like my game is in a good place. One of the most important things about playing on the grass is keeping the body fit and healthy because it’s very demanding for us – trying to push through grass is not easy.
“I have no injuries, so that’s always a good place to start. My game at Queen’s (cinch Championships) was good, it needed a bit of touching up and that’s what I’ve been working on these last few weeks”.
Despite losing out on the silverware last year, Hewett still holds fond memories from an unforgettable run last year. His semi-final battle against Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez made history when it became the first ever men’s wheelchair tennis match to be played on Court One at Wimbledon.
“It was a memory that I’ll always cherish. I’ve got great videos of my friends and family in the stand just going absolutely berserk after that semi-final match.
“I still watch it now and it gives me goosebumps because I never thought that a wheelchair match here could draw that much attention, excitement and atmosphere and the fact it was me as well was a very proud moment for me.”
Speaking on the experience gained from his final showdown against Kunieda 12 months ago, Hewett added, “I feel like I’m a completely different player because of that match.
“I learnt about my depth - my mentality and resilience because there were a lot of tough tests that week that I could have easily tapped out on.
“I always kept fighting and believing in myself and from there on onwards I’ve always taken that week as an example to never give up and always keep fighting to find another way.”
Wheelchair tennis is already taking huge strides towards increasing the exposure and is a tremendous showcase of the sport’s inclusive nature - but if you’re tuning in to the Wimbledon wheelchair draw for the first time this summer, what can you expect to see?
“Two bounces,” Hewett laughed. “That’s always the first one that surprises people. Aside from that, people that are very passionate about what they do.
“I can proudly speak on behalf of every player here that we care a lot about our tennis and the way we conduct ourselves.
“We don’t see it as a hobby, we see it as a profession, and we want to make a difference and inspire. You see the emotion on the court from everyone here that we’re hungry for it and we want to do the best we can.”
Hewett enters this year’s championships as the second seed and will kick off his 2023 Wimbledon campaign against Belgium’s Joachim Gerard in the opening round.