He may be Britain’s most successful active tennis player, but Gordon Reid still remains an unknown figure to many across the country. The winner of eight Grand Slam titles and recently of a Paralympic Gold Medal in Rio, the quietly spoken and instantly endearing figure looked at ease with all of the much-merited attention on a night where he joined the Murray brothers and guests on court at the Andy Murray Live Event at the SSE Hydro.
Being back home is often a rarity for those on the tennis circuit, and whilst the Murrays’ travels remain well documented, Reid’s less so. Having spent the year in such locations as Australia and America, the Paralympic Games in Rio seemed to have been the most special, where he believes the country really got behind the Games. ‘It was great, especially on the first weekend when the stadium was three-quarters full,’ referring to the well-documented struggle to sell tickets at many of the events in Rio at both the Olympics and Paralympics. “I think in general, especially the Paralympics, the public got behind it and you could see the impact it had on some of the local people there,” he said. “Of course, with the (Paralympic) Games, there are always some who don’t turn out, no matter where you host it.’
The Games themselves produced a wonderful spectacle and delivered the most successful medal haul for the British team since 1988. But they were not without controversy, with critics quick to quip that in a city with immense poverty and social issues, the money for the Games could have been otherwise spent.
“I think it’s impossible to hide it, even just when driving from the airport to the venue, you can see the Favelas built up on the hill,” Reid remarks, when asked whether he believes he saw a true reflection of the city. “We went to Rio in October last year and had already seen the area around where the Olympic Park was built. It’s a country where, side-by-side, is the complete poverty and the rich.”
But he has fond memories from his third Paralympics, where this time he captured a silver medal in the Men’s Doubles, with partner Alfie Hewitt, before defeating Hewitt in the Singles’ final the very next day. “In wheelchair tennis, the Paralympics are still seen as the pinnacle of our sport.” Still donning his Paralympic tracksuit, it is easy to see the obvious pride he holds for his success in Rio. “That’s the one that people work four years towards. If not the (biggest achievement), then it is definitely up there.” When asked about facing Hewitt in the Gold Medal match the very next day, he ponders, “It was definitely a bit strange but not so much once we got out onto the court when, after a few games, it just became another match.’
The Gold Medal, which he would later show off on court when he made a surprise guest appearance at the Andy Murray Live charity event at the SSE Hydro, marks the pinnacle of his tennis career, that began when he was in his adolescence. “I started playing wheelchair tennis when I was thirteen, and I was really well supported from the get-go by the Tennis Foundation.” The UK’s leading tennis charity, the Tennis Foundation, has ensured thousands of people have become involved in tennis, no matter their age, shape or ability. “I wouldn’t be where I am in my career without the support they have given me, and now the opportunities are there to make the sport a lot more accessible for people to play, and the support is now even better.” With about ten new Scottish facilities being backed by Andy Murray and Blane Dodds, Chairman of Tennis Scotland, support for tennis continues to grow.
In the past, wheelchair tennis, much like many disability sports, may have often been overlooked when discussing new facilities, but when asked about the proposals by the aforementioned duo, Reid assuredly replies that “we’ve already been included in that conversation.” He continues, “I’ve spoken to Blane and also Leon (Smith), who wants to talk about where disability tennis is in Scotland.”
It was a day when Andy Murray was questioned about his thoughts over the new suggestions to revamp the Davis Cup, which include shortening the weekend and even playing the ties at a neutral venue. But could there be a future where wheelchair tennis is part of the Davis Cup weekend?
“It would be pretty cool if we could maybe get some sort of involvement in the Davis Cup, it’s a great audience for tennis fans. So yeah, any opportunity we could get to be put on that sort of stage is only a good thing.” He suggests, but also points out, “but we’ve already got our own version of the Davis Cup, the World Team Cup, so I don’t think we’d want to detract from that.”
Naturally being in Glasgow, the chat momentarily returns to football. A boyhood supporter of Rangers, who have offered continued backing to Reid throughout his career, culminating with appearances at halftime and congratulatory tweets from manager Mark Warburton. “It’s nice because I’ve been a fan since I was a little boy, and it’s always been a dream of mine to play for them…that’s obviously not going to happen now,” he says, laughing. “So for them to be able to get behind me in a different way and to support my tennis career is brilliant.” After winning this year’s Australia Open title, Reid was welcomed onto the pitch at Ibrox for the first time.
For everything he has achieved so far in his career, he still remains lesser known to the general public than even the likes of Johanna Konta and Dan Evans, but with his success continuing to be celebrated, wheelchair tennis may yet feature in the same breath as that of Andy Murray and Heather Watson. “I think it is changing already, for sure.” He notes, when asked whether he sees a future where the public focus on wheelchair tennis in the same way, “The last four years I have been playing all the grand slams, the media coverage has really shot up. Especially in this country, I’ve been put up beside both Andy and Jamie and some of the other British players, so it’s a good thing to have that collective success.”