‘It’s impossible to replace Alfie’: Gordon Reid contemplates wheelchair tennis life without partner Hewett as the 23-year-old is set to be BANNED from the sport as he is no longer deemed disabled enough
- Alfie Hewett’s Perthes disease affects the functioning of the hip and pelvis
- However, the condition is no longer deemed worthy of a disability classification
- Hewett and Gordon Reid just missed out on gold at the Paralympics in Tokyo
- The pair had earlier faced each other in the men’s singles bronze-medal match
The doubles partner of Alfie Hewett, the brilliant British wheelchair tennis player whose career seems over because he is not deemed disabled enough, has voiced hopes that there might be an 11th-hour change of heart.
Hewett, 23, has been playing wheelchair tennis since he was eight and formed a partnership with Gordon Reid which has made them one of the best doubles pairs in the sport.
But the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has ruled that his disability – he was diagnosed as a child with Perthes disease, which affects the hip and pelvis – is not severe enough for a disability classification.
Alfie Hewett’s career looks over after losing the bronze-medal singles match to Gordon Reid
The 23-year-old has won four Wimbledon and 10 Grand Slam titles alongside Reid (left)
However, the partnership is likely to end as Hewett is no longer deemed disabled enough
‘Hopefully things will change. We just have to keep fingers crossed,’ said Reid after beating Hewett in a bronze-medal Paralympic singles match that neither of them had wanted to play.
‘It’s impossible to replace Alfie. There’s not another Alfie Hewett in the world to play doubles with.
‘I doubt I’ll ever have a bond with anybody on a tennis court like I do with Alfie because we’ve put so much effort and time into working together in this partnership.’
The decision, which Hewett has appealed, left the pair utterly desolate when probably their last chance of Paralympic gold together ended in defeat.
Both looked utterly inconsolable in the aftermath of that game and Saturday’s game was one that neither seemed to want to win.
There was minimal outward emotion during their singles game, despite another exhibition of high quality tennis in three close sets.
Reid said: ‘It’s difficult because we both have a lot of respect for each other. We were trying to show that respect after what we’d been through together emotionally after the doubles.
‘Obviously it’s not just the doubles last night. It’s the whole situation with classification and maybe this being the last Paralympics for Alfie.
‘It’s a lot of emotions for us and all the team that’s been working with us over the years as well, so, it wasn’t the moment to punch the air or scream or anything like that.
Reid and Hewett suffered an agonising defeat in the men’s doubles final on Friday in Tokyo
‘I’m not usually a guy who shows much emotion on the court. When I won gold last time, I didn’t cry.
‘I think I’ve cried more this week than I have probably for the last three or four years. It’s been a difficult experience but one that we can hold our heads high after and say we did our best.’
In a sense, Hewett is already playing on borrowed time. The ITF decision, taken in conjunction with the International Paralympic Committee, was supposed to take effect this year, though has been delayed for a year to allow the Paralympics to take place.
Hewett said he wanted to send out the message that he was desperate to continue playing. ‘It’s what I’ve done since I was eight years old,’ he said. ‘It’s my career. It’s my profession. And I want to continue.’
Reid, 29, added: ‘It’s tough for everybody involved with Alfie – his coaching team, his family, myself as his doubles partner.
‘I think I’m similar to him where I’m trying to put it to the back of my mind and try and just keep present and enjoy the opportunities we’re having until the end of the year.
The pair will be hoping to win all four majors in 2021 when they join forces at the US Open
‘You’ve seen it. It’s more evident than ever this week – the emotions everyone’s feeling. It’s not something that ever happens in sport – sometimes in disability sport, but not somebody who’s been playing for so long.
‘It’s a difficult thing. I’ve seen Alfie grow from junior to best player in the world. I’ve been part of that journey with him as a partner and a rival so hopefully it’s not the end of the story.’
The pair, who have missed out on a Golden Slam by losing in the Paralympic final, fly to New York on Monday where they can complete a Calendar Slam by winning the doubles’ title there.
‘We would love to do that,’ Reid said. ‘It would take away the heartbreak of the doubles final defeat. It would still be something that is an incredible achievement, something we haven’t done as a pair.’