Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett retain Wimbledon wheelchair doubles title
It took Wimbledon a long time to embrace wheelchair tennis but on a packed Court No3, and despite intermittent drizzle, the fans were treated to a stunning final. And for the second successive year, Great Britain’s Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett beat the French pairing of Stéphane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer to complete a successful defence of their doubles title.
Just as it did 12 months ago, the match went the distance and their 6-7 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (3) win over the No1 seeds, which took two hours 55 minutes to complete, was the perfect response after each player missed out on singles glory and made them the first pair to win the title two years on the bounce.
“We like to do things the hard way, that’s for sure,” said Scotland’s Reid, who won the inaugural singles title last year but who, as top seed, lost in the opening round this time. “The match was played in incredible spirit.
“You guys [the crowd] were amazing, I’ve been playing wheelchair tennis for 12 years and I never thought we would fill a stadium like this, especially while the women’s singles final was going on.”
The quality of tennis was breathtaking at times, all the more remarkable since half of the first set was played in light drizzle. Each pair broke the other three times as it went to a tie-break, but it was Houdet and Peifer who grabbed it 7-5. Reid and Hewett held serve in the opening game of the second set and were at deuce in the next game when they were forced off as the court became too slippery.
After a lengthy break, the players returned and Reid and Hewett stormed to a 5-1 lead. The 46-year-old Houdet and Peifer, 20 years the junior partner, stormed back and were just two games from victory when they levelled at 5-5.
But another break gave Reid and Hewett the second set and when they led 5-3 in the decider, they looked set to wrap it up.
But just as they did 12 months ago, Houdet and Peifer hit back and the tension rose as four match points came and went. When the deciding tie-break came, though, Reid and Hewett cleared their minds and raised their game again, winning it 7-3, clinching victory when Houdet, speeding forward to retrieve a Reid drop volley, netted a forehand.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” said Hewett, who lost in the semi-finals of the singles. “To win in such a close final, they fought for every single point, even when they were 5-3 down. It feels great. When you have four match points and they save them, it’s hard and quite tiring, so we had to play on instinct and just go for it, I think we did that well.”
In March, it was announced that Sport England would be cutting the £2m it gives to wheelchair tennis, a bizarre choice when you think that Britain won six medals in tennis in the Paralympics last summer. Reid this week expressed his concern for the future of the sport – Sport England wants the Lawn Tennis Association to fill the shortfall – but this win, which was shown on BBC2, should at least put wheelchair tennis in the limelight again.
Bruno Soares, the Brazilian who partners Jamie Murray in men’s doubles, was among those to express their support. “Wheelchair doubles is so entertaining,” he said on Twitter. “Amazing final and awesome tennis. Congrats to all 4.”
Reid said he hoped the people watching both at Wimbledon this fortnight and at home on TV might be encouraged to take up the sport. “We said it last year,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about. The sport has grown massively and the more chance we have to play on these types of courts, the more we can inspire others to play the game – and hopefully be on Centre Court one year.”
Jordanne Whiley will try to emulate the achievement of Reid and Hewett on Sunday when she and Yui Kamiji of Japan defend their wheelchair doubles title. The pair, unseeded this year, will take on the No2 seeds Marjolein Buis and Diede de Groot from the Netherlands for the title.