Eighteen-time Grand Slam champion Gordon Reid hopes his Wimbledon success and that of fellow Brits Alfie Hewett, Jordanne Whiley, Andy Lapthorne and Lucy Shuker will inspire the next generation of wheelchair tennis players to pick up a racket after he finished runner-up in his second men’s singles final on Sunday at The Championships.
The sport's come a long way. It's been a lot of fun to be a part of that. Hopefully we can keep building on that. I feel like I'm in good form. Obviously today wasn't my day, but I feel like I'm playing good tennis Gordon Reid
All five players from the LTA’s Wheelchair Tennis Performance Pathway who contested the wheelchair events at Wimbledon this year reached at least one final and claimed three titles, but Reid’s hopes of adding to the fourth men’s doubles title he won on Saturday with Hewett were dashed after Belgium’s Joachim Gerard took the singles title 6-2, 7-6(2).
The inaugural Wimbledon men’s wheelchair singles champion in 2016 fought back from 4-1 down to lead the second set 6-5, but ultimately his efforts were thwarted. He said:
“I thought, in general, my level was high. I think he played the big points really well. There were a few break opportunities at the start of the first set. Maybe I could have returned a little bit better on a couple of those. But I felt like he played most of the big points well today.
“I changed the tactics slightly when I was 4-1 down second set, trying to use a little more flight in the ball, trying to cause him problems that way. I could have maybe tried that a little bit earlier in the match.”
Cheered on by an adoring crowing on Court No.3 and with Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge sat courtside to enjoy a match of exceptional quality that was broadcast live on BBC Two, Rio Paralympic champion Reid added:
“The crowd was awesome today. They were getting right into it. They were creating an awesome atmosphere for both of us. It’s just great to see so many people enjoying our sport.
“The sport’s come a long way. It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of that. Hopefully we can keep building on that. I feel like I’m in good form. Obviously today wasn’t my day, but I feel like I’m playing good tennis. I feel physically in a good place, as well. So, go home, take some rest, play the British Open in a couple weeks, then all eyes on Tokyo after that.”
Reid partnered Hewett to win their 12th Grand Slam title together on Saturday as Whiley partnered Japan’s Yui Kamiji to win their fifth Wimbledon women’s doubles title and their first since Whiley became a mum in 2018.
On the court facing Whiley was British No.2 Shuker and South Africa’s Kgothatso Montjane in the first Grand Slam women’s wheelchair final to feature Brits on both sides of the net. Their success followed Lapthorne’s victory in the quad doubles final on Friday as the Brit and American partner claimed their second successive Grand Slam title together and Lapthorne made it back-to-back Wimbledon doubles titles.
Earlier this week the LTA announced its Wheelchair Tennis Initiative – designed to find the next generation of wheelchair tennis champions. Comprising of a series of taster days designed to attract, inspire and engage people with physical impairments into the sport and including activities to cater for every skill level.
Reid, who won his seventh successive Grand Slam doubles title partnering Hewett, said:
“Hopefully these kind of situations, these kind of scenarios are what inspires more people to play. The odd person here or there might have watched on the TV, been here today, that could be the start of their journey in the sport. Hopefully we can get as many people playing in the UK as possible and see where it goes from there.
“It’s been a good week. I’m proud of the way I played this week. I thought I competed well. The doubles was special yesterday with Alfie. To regain the title here, keep our streak going, was really, really good for us.”
Having contested her fifth Wimbledon doubles and eight Grand Slam final on Saturday, Shuker, a two-time Paralympic doubles bronze medallist with Whiley, said:
“If you’re thinking about trying wheelchair tennis, just do it. Don’t be afraid, get involved. When I first started I was told I was too disabled because of my level of disability as a T4 paraplegic, and many years later, I’ve been here at Wimbledon now 11 times. It’s a great sport, you learn so much, like life skills, communication, team work and it’s just a joy to play. It challenges you, takes you out of your comfort zone, but get involved and pick it up.”