Semi-finalist last year and runner-up in the previous two Alfie Hewitt and his doubles partner Gordon Reid finally got their hands on the Australian Open wheelchair doubles title.
Hewitt 22, will not however not be back unless there is a u-turn by the ITF to defend his title.
Classification and eligibility to compete in Paralympic sports is something that has caused controversy in the past and will continue to do so.
The ITF (International Tennis Federation) have introduced their new rules which will coming into play next year.
Eligibility will now be determined by an evaluation rather a self-assessment by a player. This has been backed by the International Paralympic Committee and the ITF say the new evaluation will “improve the integrity of classification”.
Alfie Hewett suffers from Perthes disease.This is a rare childhood condition that affects the hip. It is estimated 1 in 9000 children suffer from this and it is clearly understood why it occurs.
As per the NHS website 60% of children recover without any treatment.
Perthes disease is where “Part or all of the femoral head (top of the thigh bone: the ball part of the ball-and-socket hip joint) loses its blood supply and may become misshapen. This may lead to arthritis of the hip in later years.”
Hewett spoke to BBC Sport and told them:
“there’s no other option for me, because I’m not able to compete on my feet.”
Alfie plays wheelchair doubles with Gordon Reid who said he ‘”can’t imagine putting himself in Alfie’s position.”
Reid and Hewett defeated top sees from Houdet and Peifer 4-6 6-4 10-7 to win in Melbourne together for the first time and shed a few tears at the end.
“I shed a few tears at the end, and back in the locker room. We’ve had a great time together, and a good adventure, and if this is the last time I play the Australian Open, then it’s very, very happy memories.”
You can read more quotes from BBC Sport here – https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/tennis/51329731
It is a shame what has happened Alfie has been penalised as there is no other way he can now play.
The ITF website says:
“if they have a permanent physical disability that results in substantial loss of function in one or both lower extremities (limbs), and that meets or exceeds the sport’s eligibility criteria”.
It’s obviously sad for Alfie and sad for the sport on a whole that one of the best can longer participate because his disability is not considered severe enough but as he said he is unable to compete on his feet.
image credit – Tennis Foundation