De Groot, Hewett triumph once again at US Open

Wheelchair division winners

Diede de Groot and Alfie Hewett defended their respective championships in the women’s and men’s wheelchair division Sunday at the US Open.

De Groot, who was born with unequal leg length, defeated Yui Kamiji in three sets for her seventh Grand Slam title.

The Dutch tennis player dropped the first set but said the second set was like the start of a new match.

“I tried to see it that way and it helped me get into the right zone,” she said.

After the match, she was asked if the bullseye is on her now in the world of women’s wheelchair tennis.

“It’s definitely a different game when you’re No. 1,” de Groot said. “For a lot of years, you work to get to that point, to get to that number one spot and then when you’re actually there it’s like everyone’s after your spot. Everyone’s trying to chase you.”

Later in the day, she won the doubles title with fellow Dutch player Aniek Van Koot.

On the men’s side, Alfie Hewitt won in straight sets against Stephane Houdet, though each set went to a tiebreaker.

The British athlete said the tournament can be tough because opponents compete against each other regularly.

“You play each other so much that you have to adapt, you have to keep changing your game because these players aren’t dumb,” Hewett said. “They know what your areas are. That was kind of what happened to me, I believe.”

He said he was fearless in his early career.

“Then after playing and playing and playing, they said, ‘OK, this kid doesn’t know how to slice’ or ‘He deals with balls to his left-hand side but he can’t volley so we’ll bring him in,’” Hewett said.

He said the last year has been about adapting and working on weaknesses in his game that he had been neglecting.

“You can tell they’re trying to pin me on [my weaknesses] but I’m a lot more resilient now,” Hewett said.

The championship match saw the 21-year-old Hewett matched up against the 48-year-old Houdet.

“It shows what kind of effort he must do off the court,” Hewett said. “But people, especially friends, were like, ‘You can’t lose to a 50-year-old.’”

The younger player did pay tribute to his competitor, noting that Houdet’s serve is very impressive.

“That’s why the sport is so great,” Hewett said. “Because it’s actually about the tactics not just brute force.”

Hewett, who was diagnosed with a rare hip condition when he was 6 years old, pointed out that the sneakers he wore for the match had been worn only once before — when he won the US Open in 2018.

He teamed up with Gordon Reid to win the doubles later in the day.

Hewett enjoyed New York and said training in London got him used to the hustle and bustle as opposed to the rural area he grew up in that had one train pass every five hours.

And as for the fans in Queens?

“It’s really relaxed but at the same time people, they get into the matches and they really get behind you and pick sides,” Hewett said. “It’s been like a soccer match or a football match. I just love that kind of atmosphere.”