Alfie Hewett is relieved after discovering he will be able to continue his tennis career after a rethink with the classification rules.
In 2019 the 23-year-old was told he did not meet the new criteria but to his delight, he was cleared to continue playing last weekend.
Despite having to endure a two-year process that threatened to exclude him from the sport he loves, the Brit holds no animosity and is happy to resume his glittering career.
Following the news, Hewett said: “I barely got a wink of sleep the night before so I was pretty drained, just floods of tears. I obviously let everyone know back home, my family were on the edge of their seats for a long period.
“I did have a glass of bubbly at the airport but the first thing I wanted to do was get some sleep because I was exhausted. Mentally and emotionally it was a very draining experience but obviously the best one.
Adam Davy/PA Wire)
“Only now I realise how much it all really weighed on me. You’ve probably all felt it in your lives at some point when something so heavy is taken away you actually feel that lift off your shoulders, and I did. I just felt so much relief.”
Hewett, who has the hip condition Perthes diseases, was told in 2019 that he did not meet new criteria determining who would be eligible to compete in the sport.
The Norfolk player was initially told he would be ineligible to compete from the end of last year, but due to the coronavirus pandemic and the postponement of the Tokyo Paralympic Games, meant that was pushed back a year, prolonging the period of uncertainty.
However, he was assessed in Amsterdam over the weekend following research into the specific demands of tennis and was given the all-important green light.
The Paralympic silver medallist continued: “I don’t hold any resentment.
“It wasn’t a personal thing and, as much as it impacted me greatly, I was always aware that the ITF as a governing body have a responsibility to look after the classification code in the sport. Now all I care about is moving forward and what they’re doing for the sport is great.
“I can’t hold any sort of bad feeling towards them. They’ve allowed me to carry on, I’ve not missed a single tournament because of this decision.”
Following the ruling, the top ranked doubles player is aware who may now question his place in the sport, but he remains focused on achieving more success in tennis and winning Paralympic gold in 2024 after heartbreak in Tokyo and Rio.
“I’ve been spoken about for two and a half years now. I had to listen to comments and of course it’s not easy,” he explained.
“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and their judgement. I know where I stand, I know the situation from a factual point of view and I’ve never done anything wrong. I think this decision proves that I’m entitled to play wheelchair tennis.”