US Open 2019: Young British wheelchair player Alfie Hewett claims second straight title


Alfie Hewett, the outstanding young British wheelchair player, claimed his second straight US Open title on Sunday and then revealed that the recent controversy over his future in the sport had spurred him on.

On Saturday,Telegraph Sport reported that Hewett was in danger of being barred from competition at the end of next year, as part of a drive by the International Tennis Federation to tighten up its eligibility rules.

Telegraph Sport also quoted Andy Lapthorne, who competes in the quad wheelchair division and won his own title on Sunday with a stunning 6-1, 6-0 victory over Australian star Dylan Alcott. Lapthorne said that he did not understand why Hewett was still being allowed to play when he had failed an assessment by the ITF's experts.

But on Sunday, Hewett shrugged off such concerns to record a hard-earned 7-6, 7-6 victory over the world No 1, Stephane Houdet, of France.

Afterwards, Hewett said: "It's not something I try to think of like, 'Oh, this could be my last US Open,' as the whole process and the whole classification is very fresh and up in the air. It's all very ongoing and anything can happen in the next year or so. As it stands, I'm eligible to play and that's what I'll keep on doing.

"Whether it comes to an end in a year and a bit or it doesn't, I'm proud of what I've achieved in this sport and I want to win as much as I can.

"I think I have a right to play and it hasn't affected me. If anything, it's spurred me on to prove people wrong and to shut people up."

Assessments were carried out in the summer by the ITF, which has said that there will be a transition period before anyone is ruled ineligible. As Hewett's doubles partner, Gordon Reid, acknowledged last week: "There have already been a couple of changes to the process since the start, in the way they test the muscle strength. It may change again."

Hewett suffers from the degenerative condition Perthes disease, which affects his left hip and femur, but at the moment he has been ruled to be too able-bodied to play. Asked yesterday whether he could walk, he replied: "Yeah, I can walk. So can a lot of people. I think there's one player in the top 10 who can't walk."

Whatever stance the ITF takes on this prickly issue is sure to have its critics. The open wheelchair competitions used to use self-assessment but the International Paralympic Committee has insisted that the rules are tightened up.

The likely consequence is that certain players - possibly including Hewett - could fall between stools, being both ineligible for wheelchair tennis and unable to compete on their feet.

The two highest-profile players who are known to have failed the first assessment are Hewett and Marjolein Buis, of Holland, who wrote on her website: "They are taking away my job and my passion."

But sources suggest that several other players find themselves in the same position.


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Faced with rows of inaccessible shops and cafes, wheelchair user Rita Ebel has devised a low-tech high-fun solution - ramps made of Lego. "Anyone could suddenly end up in a situation that puts them in a wheelchair, like it did me," the 62-year-old grandmother said. Helped by her husband, Ebel often spends two to three hours a day building the made-to-order ramps which contain several hundred of the small plastic bricks stuck together with up to eight tubes of glue.

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