Ben Bartram celebrates a new career landmark this week after the 15-year-old from Sprowston in Norfolk became the third player currently on the LTA’s World Class Wheelchair Tennis Performance Pathway, to attain the world No.1 spot in the junior boys’ ranking.
Bartram’s achievement comes as no surprise as he moved to No.2 in the ranking published by the International Tennis Federation in early December after reaching back-to-back junior singles finals in Turkey. However, with Dutch 18-year-old Niels Vink now too old for junior competition, as of 1
January, Bartram was still overwhelmed by seeing his name at the top of this week’s updated rankings.
One of four players on the LTA’s Wheelchair National Age Group Programme to have attained or equalled career highs inside the top 10 of the new junior rankings, he said: “Words cannot describe how happy I am right now. To have number one next to my name in the rankings is huge and to be able to go to future junior tournaments as number one seed is something I’m very proud of. Looking back five years ago when I first started playing I would not, in a million years, have thought I’d be where I am now. I’d like to say thank you to my coaches and everyone else who does an amazing job at the LTA.”
Bartram follows Rio 2016 gold and silver medallists Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett in attaining the top spot in the junior boys’ ranking, Reid having become the world No.1 ranked junior 12 years ago this week, with Hewett achieving the same at the start of 2013. 2 / 05/01/2021
After returning from Turkey in late November having won one of his two junior singles finals, as well as having produced some fine performances in senior competition, Bartram competed alongside and against the likes of Reid and Hewett at last month’s LTA Wheelchair Team Battle at the National Tennis Centre, winning four of the five singles and doubles matches he contested just before Christmas.
Among his victories at the NTC he beat two-time Paralympic bronze medallist Lucy Shuker 6-4, 6-2 in singles competition. While he lost to out to French Open and US Open champion Hewett 6-0, 6-2, he completed the event in fine style, partnering Reid to a 6-1, 6-3 doubles victory over Hewett
and world No.3 ranked junior Dahnon Ward in the last of 24 matches held over three days.Reflecting on the Wheelchair Team Battle, Bartram said:
“I think I played very well against Lucy and was very smart with my tennis, I knew when to play the right shots and it shows that all the hard work is paying off. I would say that’s one of my best wins because of how difficult it was and how I kept my head throughout the match and not let Lucy’s
style of play get to me. “When I was younger I looked up to Alfie a lot and still do, especially as we both come from Norfolk. It was great to play against one of my idols. The quality of his shots is just so more consistent, he moves the ball very well and gets me out of position very fast. in the second set I
was playing my own game more, being more aggressive and that ended up getting me two games,which I’m very happy about.”
With Hewett and Reid’s respective achievements as juniors including multiple victories in the annual Junior Masters in Tarbes, France and leading Great Britain teams to two Junior World Team Cup titles, Bartram hopes to continue to follow a similar trajectory. While both major events have been moved to September and October, respectively, for 2021, last year’s Junior Masters
semi-finalist Bartram, added: “I’m looking forward to hopefully just being able to play more tournaments this year and getting back out on court when we can. In terms of the Junior Masters, I definitely want to get to the finals
this year and, of course, I would love to win it, but there are a lot of good players out there. And an upgrade on the World Team Cup silver medal we won in 2019 would be great after last year’s event was cancelled.”
Catch up with what happened in the Wheelchair Team Battle of the Brits at the NTC this week:
Norfolk’s finest Alfie Hewett, Ruby Bishop and Ben Bartram supported by coaches Donna Andrews, Richard Bloomers and Ben Collingwood.
Ben Bartram has enjoyed a successful week competing at The Alanya Open in Turkey. He won the U/18 Boys Singles title and also reached the Men’s Singles quarter final after knocking out a seeded player.
NLTA managed to catch up with Ben earlier in the week:
What tournament are you playing?
I am currently taking part in a futures tournament in Antalya Turkey called the Alanya Open.
The LTA have awarded you Elite Player status, what does this mean?
I have been granted elite player status which means if there is are more lockdowns in the uk I am still able to travel to different countries only if the country isn’t in lockdown. This also means I am able to train at the National Training Centre located in Roehampton London every Friday and Saturday if the country in lockdown so basically if there is a lockdown I can still play tennis which is absolutely amazing!
What are your ambitions in the game?
My ambitions in the game is to compete at grand slams and contest medals at the Paralympics and become world number 1.
How do you balance your academic studies with all the training and competing?
I’m currently 15 so I am in the year of taking my GCSEs and I’m able to take work home and do homework I also have a laptop which I can use to do work when I’m training so I do not fall behind.
How did you get started in Tennis?
I used to play wheelchair basketball years ago and when I stopped I was really missing sports and wanted to try more so my mum found out about a training session which was called push to podium and since then I haven’t stopped!
What advice would you give to anyone who might like to start playing wheelchair tennis?
My advice to anyone who wants to play is do it it is great fun and really good for your health mentally and physically, you will meet so many great people doing so, some of my best friends play tennis and I’ve known them since I started.
Ben is currently No.5 in UK Men’s rankings and will be playing the Haydarpasha Palace Open, again in Turkey, starting on monday.
Congratulations Ben and good luck next week, NLTA are really proud of your achievements.
Alfie Hewett won his second Major title in two days after defeating Belgium’s Joachim Gerard 6-4 4-6 6-3 in an epic encounter in the men’s wheelchair singles final.
Just 24 hours after completing the career Grand Slam of doubles titles alongside partner Gordon Reid, Hewett was back out on court at Roland Garros against the World No.4 Gerard of Belgium.
The pair were well matched going into the final – Hewett slightly edging their head to head record 12-10 prior to today’s match – and in an enthralling encounter the match ebbed and flowed over the course of two hours and 45 minutes in the French capital.
With each player winning a set Hewett rallied from 1-3 down in the decider to triumph 6-4 4-6 6-3 and claim his fourth Grand Slam singles title.
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.