08 Sep 2017

Historic day for wheelchair tennis at US Open

News Article

By Sandra Harwitt

Photo: Takeo TanumaAlfie Hewett and Gordon Reid (GBR)

NEW YORK - It was an historic day at the US Open on Thursday with wheelchair tennis presented on Arthur Ashe stadium for the first time.

As it turned out, one of tennis’ cutest dating couples - Alfie Hewett of Great Britain and Dana Mathewson of USA - were not only featured in the two doubles semifinal matches on Ashe, but were on the winning teams as well. 

In another commonality the lovebirds shared, it was Hewett and Mathewson’s first time playing at this Grand Slam.

Part of the second-seeded British pairing, the 19-year-old Hewett and 25-year-old Gordon Reid posted a 63 62 win over Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina and Shingo Kuneida of Japan in the first ever wheelchair match on the main court of the US Open.

“First US Open and first match to play on Ashe, it’s an exciting day, I think,” Hewett said. “I like the atmosphere here. I like the vibe of it. I’m having a good time.”

The unseeded duo of the 26-year-old Mathewson and 27-year-old Aniek van Koot of Netherlands upset second seeds Yui Kamiji of Japan and Lucy Shuker of Great Britain 06 64 (10-5]) in the second match on Ashe.

“Technically, I played Wimbledon because another player withdrew from the doubles, so I actually got to play for the first time ever with Aniek there,” Mathewson said. “But I don’t really count that. Not to be disrespectful to that experience, but for me this is my first time playing at a Slam because I qualified for this one outright.

“As a first match here, especially since I’m in my home country, this is amazing,” added Mathewson, who had her mum and brother in the crowd cheering.

When Jiske Griffioen had to withdraw from this US Open, the left-handed van Koot immediately thought of Mathewson to partner in the doubles here.

“We had a really good time on court at Wimbledon and we played well together,” van Koot said. “When I found out that my doubles partner, Jiske, had to pull out of the tournament I called Dana straight away. So everything worked out.”

Although the matches were played early in the day on Thursday, it was clear the players were excited to be competing on the main stadium.

“To be honest, yesterday when the National Coach sent me a text, ‘Hey, you’re playing on Arthur Ashe, I just laughed and said, ‘No we’re not,’” van Koot said.

When she found out it was true they’d be on Ashe, van Koot immediately called Mathewson to tell her the great news.

“I was out to dinner with my family and she said, ‘Guess where we’re playing’ and in the back of my mind it was like, ‘maybe, maybe,” Mathewson said. “There were rumours we might get to play on Ashe and then when it was true it was like a pinch me moment.

“I have to say that being out there it doesn’t feel as colossal as when you’re watching it on TV,” Mathewson added.

Mathewson played wheelchair tennis at the University of Arizona from 2009 to 2013. She’s now about to move to London this Sunday to pursue a Masters Degree in Audiology at University College with the hopes of an eventual career in pediatric audiology. Living in London will not only put her in a better location as there’s more wheelchair tennis played in Europe, but closer to boyfriend Hewett, who resides in Norwich, Great Britain.

Of course, when Van Koot heard her mention the move on Sunday she cautioned, “I hope we’ll be here playing in the final on Sunday.” Mathewson promised she would not be boarding a plane if she’s still in the tournament.

Hewett and Reid will play French top seeds Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer in the men’s doubles final after Houdet and Peifer’s tense 63 57 (10-8) victory over Belgium’s Joachim Gerard and Stefan Olsson of Sweden.

Meanwhile, Rio Paralympic silver medallists Marjolein Buis and Diede de Groot will play Mathewson and van Koot in the women’s doubles final after the Dutch top seeds recorded a 63 62 win over Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany and Kgothatso Montjane of South Africa.

While the men’s and women’s singles begin on Friday in New York, the first of three days of round-robin competition in the quad singles ended with world No.1 David Wagner beating fellow USA player and US Open first-timer Bryan Barten.

In the other quad singles match world No. 2 Andy Lapthorne beat Australis’s Dylan Alcott, the 2015 champion. Lapthorne won 64 61 to inflict Alcott’s first defeat since January 2016, when the Briton was also the player to get the better of Alcott.