Tennis

Wimbledon | Kunieda outlasts Hewett for title

Alfie Hewett and Andy Lapthorne both left Wimbledon with runners-up trophies on Sunday as a ground-breaking four days of wheelchair tennis at The Championships came to an end with the sport making history once again.

It’s a tough defeat to take. I had chances in the second and third set to serve it out. I’m pretty disappointed not to step up to the occasion. Alfie Hewett

World No.2 Hewett’s bid to emulate his doubles partner Gordon Reid and claim his first Wimbledon men’s singles title began well against top seed Shingo Kunieda as both players thrilled the assembled fans on Court No.3, producing some spellbinding tennis that showcased the full repertoire of their talents.

However, Hewett was unable to build on a 2-0 second set lead and despite serving for the match four times he eventually succumbed to a 4-6 7-5 7-6 [10-5] loss, after three hours and 20 minutes in his second match of the week to be decided in a final set 10-point tiebreak.

Hewett, whose Wimbledon title bid was only ended by a world No.1 player who became the first men’s wheelchair tennis player in history to compete a career Golden Slam, said:

“It’s a tough defeat to take. I had chances 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.

Hewett, who won both his men’s singles semi-final and his men’s doubles final partnering Gordon Reid, in front of euphoric crowds during the first men’s wheelchair tennis matches to be staged on No.1 Court on Friday, added:

“It’s absolutely incredible the experience I’ve had during this championships. I’ve reached the (singles) final for the first time, which I’ve struggled with. I was two points away from maybe getting my hands on the title. I can take so much confidence from that and use that for future years.

“I think the crowd and the exposure, the media, all of it; it’s been the best year for us as Brits. Hopefully for our sport moving forward we can use it as a platform, because it will do wonders for our sport.”

While Hewett and Reid experienced the No.1 Court support on Friday, Lapthorne and his American partner David Wagner made a confident start to the first ever quad doubles match to take place on No.1 Court in the last match of the 2022 Championships to end.

The support from the home crowd helped propel the Anglo-American defending champions to the opening set, but they were unable to build on an early break in the second set and Dutch top seeds Sam Schroder and Niels Vink came back to end Lapthorne’s bid for a third Wimbledon doubles title 67(4) 62 63.

“To get the opportunity to go out there and do that today (play on No.1 Court) was a dream true after having come here every year as a kid. I’ve got to say thank you to Jamie Baker. Unfortunately, the result didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but the experience will stay with me forever. They’re Paralympic champions for a reason and they’re number one and number two in singes. We beat them in Australia and we were very close here.

The tournament gets behind the British players really well and I think we’ve shown that, if you look at the three wheelchair matches that have been on Court No.1, the level has been so high, and that’s no coincidence. We love going out there and performing.”

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