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Great Britain's Alfie Hewett holding the Wheelchair Tennis Masters singles title
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Alfie Hewett’s journey to becoming wheelchair tennis World Champion

• 4 MINUTE READ

Alfie Hewett’s journey to becoming the latest tennis player and first wheelchair tennis player to make the shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year started almost 20 years ago.

A keen footballer as a young child, Hewett was diagnosed with Perthes’ disease aged 6 and he turned his sporting talents to wheelchair tennis in 2005, earning his most notable early successes in the junior events at what is now the Lexus Wheelchair Tennis National Finals.

He played his first ITF tournament in 2008 and a year later had a foretaste of what it was like to compete for Great Britain when he was the mascot for the Great Britain squad at the 2009 World Team Cup at the Nottingham Tennis Centre, where this year he won his second Lexus British Open men’s singles title.

Hewett arguably first came to the attention of the international wheelchair tennis community when he upset the odds to win the first of his three singles and three doubles titles at the Junior Masters in Tarbes, France in January 2012 and later that season, at the age of 14, he won his first international senior men’s singles title in Belgium.

In 2013 he led Great Britain to victory in the World Team Cup junior event, 10 years before Hewett helped the Brits to his third men’s title since 2015 at this year’s World Team Cup in Portugal – alongside regular doubles partner Gordon Reid and fellow Norfolkian Ben Bartram, who is among the generation of players that Hewett is now inspiring to follow in his tracks.

Hewett’s list of history-making achievements continue to grow… and look set to for some time to come.

In 2016 he made his Paralympic Games debut in Rio, becoming the lowest ranked player since wheelchair tennis made its Paralympic debut in 1992 to reach the men’s singles final, as he gained singles and doubles silver medals against and alongside Reid, who would end 2016 as the first Brit to be crowned ITF Wheelchair Tennis Men’s World Champion.

Supported by the LTA Wheelchair Programme, alongside Britain’s other Performance wheelchair players throughout his rise through the ranks, in June 2017 a 19-year-old Hewett won the first of his eight Grand Slam singles title after coming from a set and 2-0 to beat Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez in the French Open men’s singles final. Hewett ended 2017 by becoming the first Briton and (at that stage the youngest player) to win the men’s title at the year-end NEC Wheelchair Singles Masters - a victory that helped him become men’s singles world No.1 for the first time in January 2018. Again, at that stage of his career, he was the youngest player to achieve this.

Fast forward to the end of this season and Hewett now has three Singles Masters and three Doubles Masters titles (all won partnering Reid) to his name after regaining both championships in Barcelona in early November. His Singles Masters victory saw him overtake Japan’s Tokito Oda at the top of the world rankings to ensure that he would finish 2023 as ITF World Champion and year-end No.1 in both singles and doubles for the first time. Hewett succeeds Shingo Kunieda, the player widely accepted as the greatest men's wheelchair tennis player of all-time, as ITF World Champion.

His rivalry with Oda has the makings of becoming something to rival any of the classic head-to-heads in the annals of tennis history, with Oda having taken Hewett’s records for youngest Singles Masters champion, youngest Grand Slam singles champion and youngest men’s singles world No.1 during the last 13 months.

However, no one can take away Hewett’s place as the first wheelchair tennis player to be shortlisted for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year’s main award… just as no one can take away the accolade of becoming the first wheelchair player to be voted Player of the Year by the British Tennis Journalists’ Association.

Two years ago, in 2021, Hewett and Reid - both awarded OBEs this year for services to wheelchair tennis - were shortlisted for Team of the Year as Emma Raducanu became the latest tennis player to lift the BBC Sports Personality of the Year’s main award. Hewett’s five Grand Slam titles this season have included doubles titles with Reid at the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon as they narrowly missed out on completing the calendar Grand Slam for the second time in three years.

Hewett’s current 26 Grand Slam titles include his first Australian Open singles won in January and three French Open titles, while he signed off from the four majors this year by winning his fourth US Open title after beating Reid in a historic all-British final in New York. Together, Hewett and Reid’s record-breaking haul of 18 Grand Slam doubles titles now stand at four Australian Open and French Open crowns and five Wimbledon and US Open crowns.  

No para athlete has ever won the individual BBC Sports Personality of the Year award to date…. Could Hewett become the first on Tuesday 19 December?

Don’t forget to tune into BBC One from 19:00 and cast your vote during the show.     

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