Five-time Grand Slam singles champion Alfie Hewett says he was in "floods of tears" when he was cleared to continue his wheelchair tennis career.
Hewett was told in 2019 he would be ineligible to play wheelchair tennis due to new classification rules imposed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) which stated that Perthes Disease, which the Brit has, was not debilitating enough to necessitate the use of a wheelchair.
The ITF initially delayed implementing his suspension due to Covid-19 and because of his ongoing appeal, but now the governing body have adjusted their criteria so that only those who can compete while standing will be ruled out from playing wheelchair tennis.
Australian Open
Raducanu bids to make third round - how to watch match with Kovinic
Hewett was in Amsterdam last weekend where he underwent classification tests. He was relieved when he discovered the change to the criteria, which was made a day before returning home, meant he could carry on playing.
"I barely got a wink of sleep the night before so I was pretty drained, just floods of tears”, he told The Guardian.
“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.
“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 will be able to compete at the Australian Open in January and continue his phenomenal doubles partnership with Gordon Reid, who he has won 13 Slam titles alongside, including the US Open in September.
The 23-year-old says he now hopes to play tennis for another 20 years.
"There's a few titles as a singles player I haven't got," he said. "As a doubles player we are missing one little bling to the collection (a Paralympic gold medal).
"But it's not just for the titles, it's a way of inspiring. I think that's going to play a big role in the future of Alfie Hewett: trying to get more people involved with the sport.
"Hopefully in 20 years time, I'm still playing and enjoying."
- - -
Stream the 2021 Davis Cup finals and the 2022 Australian Open live and on demand on discovery+
'It worked' - Millman breaks back against Zverev in early drama