Sell out show for disabled tennis stars

Gordon Reid

Gordon Reid - Credit: Ben Queenborough

The world’s best players descended on LeeValley last week for the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters – the first wheelchair tennis event to sell out in the UK since London 2012.

The female Masters players.

The female Masters players. - Credit: Archant

The round-robin tournament features the globe’s top-eight ranked singles players – male and female – and the world’s four highest-ranked quad players.

Held in the Netherlands for the first few years, this year’s competition is the first in the UK.

World number three Gordon Reid, 23, from Glasgow, took to the sport after contracting transverse myelitis shortly before his 13th birthday.

After seeing off Holland’s Maikel Scheffers on Sunday, he ensured a successful end for Great Britain with third places across the board – Jordanne Whiley matching his finish in the women’s competition.

A proud Rangers fan and related to the one of Proclaimers, Gordon was named ahead of Andy Murray as Tennis Scotland’s International Player of the Year last month.

Although he insists just being involved in disabled sport means there’s inspiration all around him.

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“That’s one of the best things about sport, it inspires others and can help bring the best out in people,” he said.

A semi-finalist in both singles and doubles at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the 23-year-old was delighted to be back in the capital.

“There’s a great vibe around the park, so it’s good to be back,” he added.

“The London Games went a long way to make people aware of wheelchair tennis and raise the profile of the sport in Britain, but not just wheelchair tennis – disabled sport in general.”

Although the sport is still relatively unknown in the UK, Mark Bullock, Wheelchair tennis manager for the International Tennis Federation insists it is making great strides.

“The sport’s grown dramatically over the past 20 years, from 12 tournaments on the tour in 1992 to 160 across the world today,” he said.

“Hopefully we can build on the Masters and maybe our athletes going to Rio can become household names.

“It’s been great to welcome school groups and really engage with the community.”

As part of the organisers commitment to the local area, classes of school children were invited to experience the live sport.

Also watching were retired couple Barry and Jeanette Powell, 71 and 68 respectively, from Romford.

“If there’s anything happening at the [Queen Elizabeth Olympic] Park we’ll usually be here, it’s a great venue,” said Barry.

“I’ve never seen wheelchair tennis but thought it was a fantastic – it’s a great sport in its own right.”