Exclusive interview with Wimbledon 2016 singles champion Gordon Reid
Whilst Andy Murray was hammering Milos Raonic all over Centre Court en route to collecting his second Wimbledon trophy, there was another Scot who had already won the Wimbledon singles title. Gordon Reid, also of Glasgow, had lifted his own men’s singles trophy just the day before.
Wimbledon’s first ever wheelchair singles champion, 24-year-old Reid, won his second Grand Slam singles title of the year. Having already won the title Australian Open in Melbourne this January, Reid also made the finals of the French Open.
But this is a special title for the young player.
Although wheelchair tennis has featured at Wimbledon since 2001, it has only been in the doubles. 2016 marked the first ever time The Championships have introduced the singles wheelchair title – with Reid the first winner.
On winning Wimbledon
And Reid knows he's having an excellent year. “Oh, I’m in the form of my life,” he says. “Without a doubt. Winning a Grand Slam is always special, but winning a home Grand Slam is even better. My home fans are incredibly supportive of me.”
“To be able to see the first ever men’s singles championships here at Wimbledon was great, and to be a part of it myself was incredibly special,” he smiles.
Reid always loved tennis – but he did not always have to deal with his disability.
An active young boy, Reid played a number of sports – and enthusiastically! “I loved tennis, I played tennis, I really loved footy,” he elaborated. “I was a big football guy. I also really enjoyed running, and I played a lot of sport on my feet. Any sport on my feet. All of it.” The love of sport is palpable in his voice.
But at 13, Reid was struck with transverse myelitis. A neurological condition that causes inflammation in the spinal cord, transverse myelitis can see those afflicted lose some or all sensation in their limbs.
And that was exactly what happened to Reid. “I couldn’t feel my legs, and I lost all sensation. I was in hospital for a long time.”
A gargantuan burden for any teen to bear, it was even harder for the active, keen sportsman Reid. “My family and friends kept me going,” he says. “They’d be with me in hospital and keep my spirits up, and that kept me going. I was only 13 at the time, juggling school, home, tournaments. I suppose that had a big part in helping me cope with it, diverting my mind. I didn't have to think about it as much.”
Two years later, having undergone serious rehabilitation, Reid began to get used to his wheelchair. Already a keen tennis player before the condition, he continued to pursue the sport.
By 2007, he became Britain’s youngest men's Singles National Champion.
In the years that followed, he would go on to collect multiple World Cup team titles.
It wasn’t smooth sailing for Reid, however. “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult. Travelling with a wheelchair, all of my equipment, everything, that was incredibly tough. But like everything else, you get used to it. It was hard in the early days.”
Opening up about his injury and how he dealt with it, Reid explains “in the beginning, moving was the most difficult thing. I was an active young lad, always on my feet and stepping out somewhere at the last minute, so a wheelchair made things very dififcult. Adapting to that was incredibly difficult. But now, it’s become second nature.”
Explaining just how difficult wheelchair tennis is, Reid goes on “you have to handle motion, manouevering the wheelchair, shot placement, shot making, and possession of the ball all at once. It needs immense coordination.”
Reid has often spoken of his desire to help others dealing with disabilities, particularly young children looking to get into sport. “If I can do that, it’ll be brilliant,” he says. And he has been working closely with them. “The facilities here in Great Britain for disabled sports are very good. [There are] so many programs on at the moment to help them, and to try to get more people involved in the sport.”
“And it’s not just for disabled tennis. They’re doing things to promote tennis for the visually impaired, and just generally make more people play the sport, too.”
Experience at Wimbledon
“The Champions’ Dinner was absolutely brilliant,” a happy, but tired Reid says. “I had a chat to Andy, and we were just thrilled about the fact that two lads from Glasgow had won singles titles at Wimbledon at the same tournament.”
Although Reid is a Roger Federer fan, he was rooting for Murray at Wimbledon this year. “I grew up watching Roger, love how he is and how he plays, but all through the tournament, I’ve been rooting for Andy. He’s Scots, home player, and he’s been in brilliant form and absolutely deserved the win today.”
“I won my first Slam this year, my first ever Grand Slam final too, and that final was brilliant as well. I couldn’t believe I’d won. My friends, my family, fans all around cheering me on. The feeling was unreal. It was a massive mix of emotions.”
“But Wimbledon is Wimbledon. It was absolutely special.”