28 January 2023

‘I would love to be a figurehead’ says Alfie Hewett after Melbourne success

28 January 2023

An emotional Alfie Hewett claimed his seventh grand slam title in wheelchair singles and first at the Australian Open before revealing his ambition to be a figurehead for the sport.

Hewett had lost in the final at Melbourne Park for the last two years but made it third time lucky, defeating 16-year-old Tokito Oda from Japan 6-3 6-1.

The success completed a golden two days for the Norfolk player, who also won the doubles title with British team-mate Gordon Reid on Friday.

Hewett was 3-1 down in the first set but won five games in a row to clinch it and then repeated the sequence in the second set, sealing the victory with an ace before sobbing with delight.

“I can’t really describe it at the moment,” said the 25-year-old, who has taken over as world number one following the retirement of his big rival Shingo Kunieda.

“Third time lucky. Obviously the history of losing the last couple of years has haunted me. With there being such a big gap in between the end of the year and the new year, you really have time to dwell on it. It has stuck with me for, I’d say, the last couple years. The motivation has been growing.

“To get out there today and overcome a few shaky nerves at the beginning, play some of the tennis I did, I’m extremely proud of the efforts and of course the outcome in the end.”

Wimbledon is now the only singles title Hewett, who has 23 slam trophies overall, has not won.

“Of course I believe I can win it after the last years’ performances,” he said. “We’ll see when we get there what the mentality is like.”

Japan’s Kunieda retired on the eve of the tournament having amassed 28 slam singles titles – an all-time record – and 50 overall, as well as four Paralympic gold medals.

“It’s been on my mind with Shingo retiring, someone’s got to step up,” said Hewett. “I feel like, with my ability, that I can get close to his record. I’ve got age on my side, I’ve got the confidence, I’ve got the game style to back myself in every slam now.

“Obviously, you take it one at a time. But I would love the dominance. I would love to be a figurehead for this sport.”

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