"Winning Roland Garros was a special moment for me. I have enjoyed the time I had after to celebrate but now it is back to focusing on the tennis and getting prepared for Wimbledon."
Great Britain’s wheelchair tennis player Alfie Hewett has been voted as the Allianz Athlete of the Month for June after winning his first Grand Slam men’s singles title at the French Open. He fought back from a set down 2-0 in the final to beat Argentina’s defending champion Gustavo Fernandez 0-6, 7-6(9), 6-2.
Hewett became the first British tennis player since Fred Perry in 1935 to win the men’s singles event at Roland Garros. “Winning Roland Garros was a special moment for me. I have enjoyed the time I had after to celebrate but now it is back to focusing on the tennis and getting prepared for Wimbledon,” he said.
“I will never forget that week, I had some family there which meant a lot to me, and also the tennis there had so many positives to come away from.”
The 19-year-old received 49 per cent of the votes. Swedish wheelchair rugby player Tobias Sandberg was second with 26 per cent, while the Netherlands’ wheelchair basketball player Mariska Beijer came in third with 12 per cent.
Japan’s wheelchair tennis player Yui Kamiji and Canada’s wheelchair racer Brent Lakatos were also nominated.
Hewett is now preparing for Wimbledon, the place where he kicked-start his career only 12 months ago after a career turning-point Grand Slam. He was relatively unknown before last year’s edition, but left London to start a phenomenal year of wheelchair tennis.
Alongside fellow British star Gordon Reid, the pair won the doubles Grand Slam at Wimbledon after beating French duo Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(6). From that moment on, everything changed for the youngster.
“Wimbledon was a turning point I believe. It was a great test to show how I would perform under intense pressure and ultimately on the big stage, so ahead of Rio that gave me great confidence in knowing that I could rise to any occasion,” explained Hewett.
“Since then I have grown in confidence and gone from strength to strength in all areas of my game.”
The All England Club success was stunningly backed up with two silver medals at his debut Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he improved over the course of the two weeks. Just nine months later, the right-hander claimed his first singles Grand Slam at Roland Garros; unthinkable for Hewett’s own development.
“The last 12 months have been a little surreal for me. If someone was to tell me a year ago that I would have two Paralympic silver medals and be a Wimbledon doubles and Roland Garros singles champion, I would have never believed you,” he said.
“It has been a roller-coaster 12 months, it has not all been sunshine and glory, but I am very proud of the hard work I have put in and the results that have come from it.”
This week, the 19-year-old returns to Wimbledon stronger, fitter and more experienced.
“I am very much looking forward to being back at Wimbledon. It is every British tennis player's dream to compete there, the atmosphere and support that week is incredible.
“I really feel like the public get behind the British players that week, so it is a great feeling to play there and I can't wait to get started.”
The lifelong Norwich City supporter will be playing his third successive Wimbledon and is solely focussed on his tennis, while more eyes take notice each year of the latest British star to grace the grass courts.
“I try not to think about that, the pressure is something I will always put on myself but after these last 12 months I don't think that will put any extra pressure on my shoulders. There will hopefully be more people that come to watch and support us, but I love extra pressure like that.
“I have no expectations, it is a tough surface and I believe that anyone can win it. I will focus on the routines and things I do to get myself best prepared, and that is all I will think about right now.”
The wheelchair tennis action gets underway at Wimbledon on 13 July.
The 2017 Allianz Athlete of the Month winners so far are:
• January – Jeroen Kampschreur, Netherlands, alpine skiing
• February – Veronica Vadovicova, Slovakia, shooting
• March – Maria Paula Barrera, Colombia, swimming
• April – Jean Niringiyimana, Rwanda, taekwondo
• May – Evan Medell, USA, taekwondo
• June – Alfie Hewett, Great Britain, wheelchair tennis