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Wheelchair singles: Three is a magic number for Hewett

  • Alex Sharp

It's a case of "third time lucky" as an emotional Alfie Hewett has been crowned Australian Open wheelchair singles champion.

MORE: All the scores from AO 2023

DRAW: Australian Open 2023 men's wheelchair singles

The world No.1, runner-up at Melbourne Park in 2021 and 2022, dominated proceedings against teenage sensation Tokito Oda. 

It's a seventh Grand Slam singles title for Hewett, who took the doubles title alongside fellow Brit Gordon Reid on Friday.

"This was one heck of a battle for me, more mentally than anything," said an elated Hewett. 

"Those tears you saw were seven years in the making. I remember my first time on this court about three, four years ago. I cried after that too because it took me so long to win my first match. 

"To make two finals, to lose in three sets, it really starts to eat up at you over time. To get the opportunity to get the win, to finally get my hands on that trophy is something I'm very proud of.

"The history of losing the last couple of years has haunted me. With there being such a big gap in between end of year and the new year, you really have time to dwell on it. It has stuck with me for the last couple years. The motivation has been growing.

"To finally get my hands on that trophy is something I'm very proud of."

There was a seismic announcement just prior to Australian Open 2023 with Shingo Kunieda calling time on his Hall of Fame career

"It's been on my mind with Shingo retiring, someone's got to step up. I feel like with my ability that I can get close to his record," said Hewett, eyeing Kunieda's haul of 28 singles majors.

"I've got age on my side, I've got the confidence, I've got the game style to back myself in every slam now.

"Obviously, you take it one at a time. But I would love the dominance. I would love to be a figurehead for this sport. It's not just about winning, I want to try to leave my own legacy."

The players warmed up with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ song 'Can't Stop' ringing around the stands and it was the 16-year-old Oda making the early moves.

A hold to love was followed by hooked forehands fired past the reach of Hewett en route to 3-1 on the scoreboard.

Hewitt locked in and a remarkable scooped retrieval from him bounced just inches from the net. Oda's resulting putaway smash was wide into the tramlines and that seemed to flip the script, Hewett building momentum to take six games in a row.

Tokito Oda (Getty Images)

World No.3 Oda levelled the second set at 1-1 with a magical backhand over the net post, struck from out wide by the photographers’ pit. 

The Japanese prodigy piled the pressure on Hewett, but the top seed was more than ready, imposing himself, particularly on return. 

At Championship point, the tears came; this was Hewett's Melbourne moment.

"First of all, a massive congratulations to Tokito and your team for making the final. You're 16 years old, it's an absolute scandal what you're doing. Your level is incredible," said Hewett.

"I'm very confident this won't be your last singles final at a Grand Slam. I'm sure one day your name will be on the trophy.

"I'm just really happy. Australia, Melbourne, what a place. What a place to kick off the year."

Alfie Hewett (Getty Images)

Over to Oda, who paid tribute to the champion.

"A huge congrats Alfie, it's always very tough to play you," said the AO debutant. "I'm really proud to share this court and I'm very happy to be in the final with you. 

"I hope to come back stronger next year."