Brits Andy Lapthorne and Alfie Hewett earn titles at the Rothesay Classic Birmingham and cinch Championships
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Brits Andy Lapthorne and Alfie Hewett were among the champions on Sunday as the first two of three ground-breaking grass court wheelchair tennis events came to an end at the Rothesay Classic Birmingham and the cinch Championships in London, where Belgium’s Joachim Gerard was the men’s wheelchair singles champion.
Lapthorne won the first world ranking grass court quad singles wheelchair tennis event to take place outside of Wimbledon after defeating fellow Brit James Shaw 6-3, 6-1 at the Edgbaston Priory Club to end his two round robin matches having dropped just five games.
World No. 3 and two-time Wimbledon quad doubles champion Lapthorne, who beat Antony Cotterill 6-1, 6-0 in his opening match played on the indoor courts in Birmingham on Saturday, due to rain, said: “It’s amazing. First of all, to be here. It’s taken a lot of time and effort to grow the game and grow the quad division, in particular.
"To be invited to such a great event that the LTA have put on is amazing and to win the first one is always nice. The plan was to come and get a couple of matches on grass. I only managed to get one, but it’s good preparation and now we roll on towards Wimbledon.”
Hewett made his tournament debut partnering Frenchman Stephane Houdet in the men’s doubles final at the cinch Championships, the top seeds having had a semi-final bye. However, with Hewett having won 15 Grand Slam doubles titles and Houdet owning 19 doubles titles at the majors, any lack of match practice together didn’t show after they beat 17-year-old Brit Andrew Penney and Gerard 6-2, 6-2.
With Hewett and Houdet having faced each other on the doubles court with their usual partners, Gordon Reid and Nicolas Peifer, in two Paralympic finals and a succession of Grand Slam finals over the last six years, world No.1 doubles player Hewett, said:
“It’s nice to be on the same side of the net together. We gelled pretty well and I’m happy with that. As much grass court practice as possible (before Wimbledon) is really important in singles and doubles.”
Earlier in the day Gerard joined Hewett and Gordon Reid on the wheelchair singles roll of honour at The Queen’s Club after a comprehensive 6-1, 6-2 victory over second seed Houdet.
The 33-year-old Belgian, who needed two and half hours to beat 2019 champion Hewett in Saturday’s semi-finals, sped through the opening set in just 25 minutes and while Houdet’s serving prowess kept him in the match until midway through the second set, Gerard’s power served him well as he recorded his sixth successive match win on grass, adding the cinch Championships title to his 2021 Wimbledon title.
He said: “I’m happy to be back on grass after a long year to wait for it. I showed yesterday (against Hewett) that I wanted to do something well. The last few matches were not good, especially against Stephane. I lost at Roland Garros and the French Riviera Open in the last two weeks against him. Grass is a good surface for me, but when I have the mindset like today, I can beat anyone.”
With wheelchair tennis making its fourth appearance since 2018 at The Queen’s Club and having world ranking status on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour for the third time, Gerard added: “I think it’s really important. If you asked every wheelchair player they would see let’s have more. Let’s have Indian Wells, let’s have Miami, let’s have Monte Carlo.
"Here, there are many people who know Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid, but some others do not know wheelchair tennis, so it’s really important for us.”
The Belgian returned to court shortly afterwards to partner Penney to reach the biggest final of the young Brit’s career after the defeated the all-British partnership of Ben Bartram and Dahnon Ward 6-4, 6-1.
All three Brits were on court in January’s boys’ doubles final at the Wheelchair Tennis Junior Masters in Tarbes, France – a contest that Bartram and Ward won. However, Gerard’s extra experience and power proved key in Sunday’s semi-final at The Queen’s Club. While all three teenagers showed immense talent, Hewett and Houdet’s combined experience saw them attain an added level of performance in the final.
The trio of LTA grass court events continue with a women’s world ranking wheelchair tennis tournament taking place at the Rothesay Classic Eastbourne from Thursday (23-25 June). The entries include world No.1 Diede de Groot of the Netherlands, Japan’s world No.2 Yui Kamiji, the winner of last year’s women’s singles tournament at the Birmingham Classic and British No.1 and world No.7 Lucy Shuker.
Shuker is one of four Brits who will be in action in Eastbourne, alongside Cornelia Oosthuizen, Abbie Breakwell and Ruby Bishop.