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Tennis prodigy's dad fires volley over lack of playing facilities

By David Kelly

Tennis dad Stephen Reid has spoken of his dismay that despite the talent pool, Northern Ireland doesn't have the facilities or the proper surface to develop players to follow in the footsteps of US Open champion Andy Murray.

Murray's success is expected to inspire a new generation of players but Reid — whose 14-year-old daughter Laura is one of the most successful Ulster players — fears local youngsters will be robbed of the opportunity due to a major lack of investment.

Despite our notorious weather, Northern Ireland does not have a dedicated indoor tennis facility for the proper development of young talent at a reasonable price. Currently, the cost of coaching is beyond the reach of many families.

Mr Reid, who takes Laura from Belfast to Dublin to the National Academy every weekend for training on a better surface, said: “I thought Andy Murray's performance was fantastic, to win a Grand Slam title is incredible and it should be a big inspiration to the kids here, and what surprised me was the number of non-tennis people who stayed up to watch the final with Novak Djokovic.”

The young girl started playing tennis at a summer club in the Ozone at Ormeau Park when she was five or six, before enrolling in an after-school club.

Mr Reid said the region does not have the right facilities, making it difficult for them to chase Grand Slam glory.

“The problem is we don't have the proper facilities here and we don't have the right surface for our kids to train on, so you can't develop kids the way you would want to so they would have a chance of achieving what Murray has.”

Mr Reid said the rest of the UK has the right facilities for nurturing young talent.

“It's very frustrating because every year we see how much money goes to football, to GAA and rugby, yet sports like tennis, cycling and athletics are left with very little — and recently boxing was given £3m by our local Government.

“I really think the Government needs to look seriously at giving local kids a chance to be like Murray. If a kid from Dunblane can make it, then why not a kid from Belfast, or Newry?

“A third of the money that boxing has just received would be a massive help. We were meant to get a new Ulster tennis centre as part of the Olympic legacy but then the money was taken away.”

Mr Reid said it was important that children were inspired by London 2012.

“That should include those who want to be tennis stars, and of course tennis is a great cross-community sport, which is very important,”he said.

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