Photo: Roy Smiljanic PhotographyGordon Reid (GBR)
LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: Four years on from making his Paralympic Tennis Event debut, Gordon Reid will go into London 2012 as the highest ranked British men's singles player and with the much-talked about home advantage the Scot will bid to emulate his countryman Andy Murray, winner of the Olympic Tennis gold medal at Wimbledon, by getting on the rostrum.
In 2008 Reid was the youngest player in the men’s singles and at the age of 16 he had the onerous task of a first round match against the then defending gold medallist Robin Ammerlaan of the Netherlands, who went on to win the silver medal in Beijing behind Japan’s Shingo Kunieda.
Four years later and Reid has made such progress that he arrives in London world ranked No. 9, one place ahead of Ammerlaan and as the second highest ranked British men’s singles player ever behind four-time Paralympian and former world No. 8 Jayant Mistry, who is now the Wheelchair Tennis Manager for the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“I went to Beijing to get the experience, to enjoy it and to sample the whole atmosphere and I was very young then,” said Reid. “I had a good match against Robin, but obviously he was far more experienced and he was the gold medallist in Beijing and went on to win the silver."
Reid will begin his London 2012 campaign on Saturday against Japan’s Takuya Miki, another of the sport’s rising stars. Based on current rankings Miki is ranked just eight places below Reid and so it could be one of the closer of the day’s scheduled matches, but on home soil Reid is likely to get plenty of crowd support.
“I’m really excited for London 2012 after seeing all the crowds and support for the British athletes at the Olympics. It’s going to be fantastic,” said ninth seed Reid.
Ammerlaan is also in Reid’s half of the draw, as are third seed and Beijing bronze medallist Maikel Scheffers of the Netherlands sixth seed Stefan Olsson of Sweden, both higher ranked players that Reid has winning form against.
Reid beat Olsson for the first time in the first round at July’s British Open, the last Super Series tournament and Reid’s last tournament before the London 2012 Paralympics. The Briton made the most of home advantage in Nottingham, reaching his first Super Series final after also beating current Dutch world No. 3 Ronald Vink in the semifinals.
Meanwhile, Reid also beat Scheffers twice in 2011, when the Dutchman was ranked world No. 2 before going on to end last season as world No. 1 and ITF World Champion for the first time.
After reaching the final of the British Open Reid went on to play Kunieda and while Kunieda went on to regain the men’s title in Nottingham comfortably, Reid believes the experience was valuable.
“He looks back to his best and is possibly the player we all have to beat. I was disappointed after the final in Nottingham, but I know I have the game to hut him and It’s better to have had the experience then than to not have had it in the lead up to London,” said Reid.
Another experience that Reid has had in recent weeks was watching fellow Scot Murray win two medals for Great Britain at the Olympic Tennis Event.
“In between my own preparations for London I think I managed to watch about every Murray played and to sit in front of the TV and watch him win gold was just amazing. I was really buzzing afterwards and it’s the kind of thing that makes you think ‘I want some of that’.
Before Reid gets anywhere near the podium there is plenty of work to be done and, as ninth seed, he will need to beat a higher ranked player to reach the quarterfinals. If he does, he will improve on Mistry’s men’s singles record after he reached the last 16 of the men’s singles in all four of his Paralympic appearances, the last of which was in Athens in 2004 before returning to the Games in his current role as Wheelchair Tennis Manager.