Ben Collingwood, Coach to Alfie Hewett reflects on his US Open experience:
Being inside the bubble for the first tournament back for the ITF Wheelchair tour since the global pandemic, was a once in a lifetime experience. The US Open had all it’s procedures in place to provide a safe and exciting opportunity to bring the best players from around the world to compete for the title.
When myself and Alfie arrived at the hotel we were immediately taken for a Covid-19 test and had to quarantine within our individual rooms until the result came back negative, this took 29 hours. Once the result came back, we were able to travel to the site and get a feel for what the organisation was like this year and also get on the practice courts.
The tournament staff were all included in the bubble so the organisation of the event was water tight to restrict anyone coming in and out of the area. We traveled to and from the site via coaches practicing social distancing by not allowing people to sit next to each other. There were more areas which the USTA had taken precautions; live Hawkeye systems apart from the 2 stadium courts, QR code cafeteria where food was always delivered in takeaway boxes, each seeded player or past champion would get a corporate suite for the week and limitations to the locker rooms.
We also had to take a COVID-19 test every two days, we ended up taking 4 tests during a 8 day period. If one of us would test positive Alfie would be pulled out of the tournament.
As you all would have seen that this was the first tournament back for the wheelchair players since we were sent home from Georgia USA on March 12th. So the expectations of level of tennis was always unknown for all players.
However, Alfie Hewett from coming off a 15 week training block, working at Gorleston Tennis Club, Easton Tennis Centre and David Lloyd Norwich came out strong in his first match against fellow Brit and doubles partner Gordon Reid.
Alfie was then able to follow this up with a 3rd set win over Gustavo Fernandez (world No.2) in the semi finals to set up the final against world No.1 Shingo Kunieda.
As you may have seen, the final was an instant classic for the fans to watch as Alfie found himself 0-2 down in the second set to find a way to win the set 6-3 and again he was 1-4 down and pulled it back to 6-5 in the 3rd. Alfie didn’t quite make it in the tie break however, he showed unbelievable character and heart to claw his way into the match, I hope lots of our Norfolk juniors were watching and learned that you are never out of a match until the final point has been played.
On a whole, we had a very successful week as this will be the only time in each players careers where they won’t be match tight and not been able to compete for 6 months, Alfie takes home the doubles trophy for the 4th time in a row and the R/U singles trophy. We as a team are very proud of his efforts this week and acted like a true champion. Sometimes in sport matches don’t go your way, it’s how you react to these situations that reveal who you really are.
We now head back Norfolk to prepare for the “New” clay season, French Rivera and then the rescheduled Roland Garros. This means Alfie will be straight back on court with me and Coach Donna Andrews, the other critical member of our team.