Alfie Hewett admitted he cannot even begin to contemplate life beyond wheelchair tennis after his Paralympic career effectively ended without a gold medal following another heartbreaking doubles defeat alongside Gordon Reid.
The British pair – beaten finalists in Rio – were visibly devastated having once again been forced to settle for silver due to a second successive Games final loss to French defending champions Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer.
Norfolk-born Hewett has been playing under a cloud of uncertainty for almost two years and, unless he receives a reprieve, will soon become ineligible to play professionally because his hip disability – Perthes disease – is not deemed severe enough under fresh International Tennis Federation criteria.
— LTA (@the_LTA) September 3, 2021
The 23-year-old and Scotsman Reid were well placed to triumph in Tokyo but squandered a three-game lead in the deciding set to go down on a dramatic tie-break, losing 7-5 0-6 7-6 (3).
Defeat ended the team-mates’ hopes of a Golden Slam – victory in all four grand slams and the Paralympics in the same year – and they must pick themselves up to face each other in Saturday’s bronze-medal singles match.
“It’s in my mind right now but it hasn’t been,” Hewett said of the classification issue.
“I’ve always tried to put it to the back of my mind and just focus on the tennis and yeah, the thought of that right now gets me upset so I’m trying not to talk about it, to be honest.
“I’ve no idea (what would come next). I’ve not thought about it that far.
“I want to stay, I don’t want to move on and I wouldn’t be present if I was thinking about what life would be like afterwards so I’ve very much stuck myself in the here and now and whatever happens, happens and I’ll react to whatever the decision is.
“I can try and be as positive as I can but it’s not in my hands at all.”
Hewett is currently permitted to continue until the end of 2021 and has a glimmer of hope due to a review into the situation.
He produced undoubtedly the shot of the match at Ariake Tennis Park, clattering into advertising hoardings and holding his arms outstretched following an astonishing cross-court forehand winner in the second set.
After overcoming the setback of dropping the opening set, the GB pairing won nine games on the trot and looked to be cruising to glory before wily 50-year-old Houdet and Peifer, 30, mounted a shattering comeback.
What a fight this was. 🥈
— ParalympicsGB (@ParalympicsGB) September 3, 2021
“We’re so devastated and flat and emotional as well,” said Hewett.
“The only thing I can take away from the match is that point.
“I think the reaction spoke volumes from both of us, we were hugging like we’d won the match. It was outrageous.”
Reid beat Hewett in the singles final in Rio but their hopes of a repeat ended on Thursday following a semi-final loss apiece.
Speaking about the swift return to court for the third-place showdown, Reid said: “I don’t think either of us have really thought about it yet.
“It’s so fresh and so raw the emotion from that match that we’re going to probably have to sleep on it.
“It’s going to be tough out there to be on the opposite sides of the net tomorrow but as Alfie said earlier there’s a bronze medal at stake so we have to try the best we can – put this match behind us and hopefully have a good battle.”
After departing Japan, the star twosome – who have already tasted doubles success in the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year – will swiftly turn their attentions to the US Open.
“When we get there it will be an opportunity to turn things around from this week and try and complete the calendar slam, which we’ve not done together,” said 29-year-old Reid.
“That’s still a big goal that we’ll try and achieve.”
Later on Friday, GB’s Jordanne Whiley won bronze in the women’s singles draw. The 29-year-old beat Holland’s Aniek Van Koot 6-4 6-7 (7) 6-4.