YOU could call them the raining champions. Incessant drizzle in South West London yesterday almost caused Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett’s bid for a second successive Wimbledon wheelchair doubles title to get bogged down in the mud, but after a small technical adjustment, a couple of blasts of hairdryer treatment from Scotland’s Olympic gold medalist helped inspire his English partner to produce his best tennis when they needed it most.
Losing a rain-affected first set tie-break against their French rivals Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer, they returned after a lengthy delay to take us into a decider, only to put the packed crowd who thronged Court No 3 through the wringer again. Four match points had come and gone with Hewett and Reid both found wanting with chances to serve for the tournament before some more big-hitting from the 19-year-old Englishman saw them over the line for a dramatic 6-7 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (3) victory. With thousands engrossed by the action, and others following it live on BBC, Reid said this was up there last year, when he won both wheelchair titles.
“Last year was incredible for me and Alfie, to go on and win our first Grand Slam was brilliant,” said Reid. “But the difference in size and spectacle was incredible, the crowd was immense, and for me I think I enjoyed that even more than last year. We never thought we would never play on a packed out court three, so hopefully we have played our part in the growth of the sport.
“Grass is difficult anyway, but right from the warm-up I had to raise my back wheel, because the court was very soft due to the rain and the incessant drizzle,” he added. “It was almost muddy where the court had been worn away. It was very frustrating – balls you could normally get to you couldn’t, because the wheels were spinning. If the rain was heavy at least play would have stopped.
“It is great to have Alfie on my side of the court. He really came out firing towards the end of the match when I was tiring a bit. Normally I am nice but he needed a bit of a kick up the backside a few times today.”
Reid hopes the increased exposure and commercial side of the sport goes some way to filling the shortfall caused by a drop in UK Sport’s funding. Discussions are ongoing with the LTA to see whether it might be possible for the governing body to do more. “It is an expensive sport to play and the costs are the same for us but the prize money isn’t,” he said. “For us the commercial side and sponsors is more important than the funding but when we lose some of that funding we need to find that somewhere.”
Andy Murray might have gone out at the quarter finals his year but that doesn’t mean Sir Alex Ferguson’s contention about Scots being the ‘master race’ doesn’t hold true. After Reid’s victory yesterday, Jamie Murray could become the second Scottish winner at this year’s Wimbledon when the elder Murray sibling takes to the court with his mixed doubles partner Martina Hingis immediately after today’s men’s final, hoping to reprise his 2007 victory in this event with Jelena Jankovic. With reigning champions Heather Watson and Henri Kontinen the opponents, this is the first time two Brits have faced off in an SW19 final (men’s, women’s or mixed) since 1961.
“I’m not too sure if I’ll be going to Jamie’s match or not, it depends what happens tonight!” says Reid with a gleam in his eye. “But it is already a win-win, because you have Heather and Henri out there who are defending champions anyway. It is going to be a great occasion but as a Scotsman it would be great to see Jamie win it. Last match of the tournament too, it would be a great way to go out.”