David Wagner apart, the youth had their way at the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters in Loughborough, Great Britain, which finished on Sunday (3 December). Home favourite Alfie Hewett, 19, and the Netherlands’ Diede de Groot, 20, emerged victorious in Sunday’s finals of the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) season-ending championship, which featured 22 of the world's top singles players on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour.
After beating an opponent he had not beaten in nine matches, then thrashing a two-time Masters champion, Hewett met compatriot Gordon Reid in the finals. The world No. 2 cruised past Reid, his doubles partner and fellow Rio Paralympic medallist, 6-3 6-2, in the men’s singles.
“This week I’ve had to dig to depths I’ve never really dug before,” Hewett said. “I brought out something in me which I didn’t really believe was there and it gives me a lot of confidence going into future matches.
“No matter how exhausted I am, no matter how much I want to quit I can always battle against it and find a way. I got through the group stages here and played two of the best matches I’ve ever played in my life.”
A disputed line call on the first point of the third game did not help Reid maintain his rhythm.
“My arms felt a little bit heavier, I was moving a bit slower and even just a fraction can be the difference,” said Reid. “I felt like a boxer who had punched himself out in the first three rounds. In comparison to how I’ve been feeling and playing on the singles court this has been some of the best tennis I’ve played, some of my levels were even higher than last year so a lot of good things to take into next season.”
de Groot carries on tradition
Japan’s Yui Kamiji was aiming to win the Masters title for a second time.
But as in each of its previous 23 seasons, the Masters has been won by a Dutch woman, and de Groot happily maintained the tradition.
It was de Groot’s first Masters title, just as Wimbledon was her first Grand Slam title this year. The retirement of the Rio Paralympic double gold medallist and fellow Dutchwoman, Jiske Griffioen, has heaped a lot of responsibility on to de Groot’s shoulders, but she has proved able to carry the load.
She held a 4-1 lead in both the first set and the second but each time saw it chipped away by her Japanese counterpart, who actually took a 5-4 lead in the first set. However, de Groot kept her nerve and eventually pulled through 7-5 6-4.
Ten-tastic for Wagner
There is not much left for the USA’s 43-year-old Wagner to achieve in this sport. The last couple of weeks have seen him win his tenth UNIQLO Wheelchair Doubles Masters title and now his tenth Masters singles title with a 6-1 6-2 demolition of Great Britain’s Andy Lapthorne.
“I feel great, I’m excited. I’ve said all week that no one comes here to take second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth. We all come here to take first place. There can only be one and I’m really excited that it’s me,” said Wagner, who only dropped the opening game of the first set.
More on the NEC Masters can be found on the International Tennis Federation’s website.