Tragic insight into dead Aussie star
THE tennis world is still in shock as it remembers Aussie tennis star Todd Reid, who died last week aged 34.
A young sensation tipped for big things, Reid burst onto the professional tennis scene in 2002 by winning the junior Wimbledon title and quickly emerged as the No. 3 Aussie tennis player of the early noughties behind Lleyton Hewitt and Mark Philippoussis.
But sadly he was never able to reach his potential, as bouts if illness and injuries forced him to quit tennis in 2005 - just 12 months after he'd had his best season on the ATP Tour.
Former pro Ryan Henry first met Reid as a 10-year-old and teamed up with the prodigy in doubles because he quickly realised it was much smarter to be on the same side of the court as him as the young gun rather than on opposite sides.
The two played with and against each other during their development years and - after Reid was buried at a private funeral this week - Henry reflected on the good times the pair shared together and on what made his former doubles partner so special.
Tragically, Reid wasn't able to climb to the heights predicted of him, and Henry said life after tennis was a challenge he struggled to adapt to.
"When he started out in the pro ranks, Todd had such a rapid rise. He was already nearly top 100 when he started to struggle with glandular fever, and I think a couple of niggling injuries hit him at the same time, Henry wrote in a column for Players Voice.
"Emotionally, that must have been really hard for Todd to deal with, and unfortunately it seemed that he never really found his feet after that.
"It's incredibly difficult for a lot of players who go from pursuing professional tennis to trying to find a life for themselves outside the sport."
Having worked his way into Australia's Davis Cup team and nearly broken into the top 100 as a teenager, and fresh off making the third round at the Australian Open in 2004, it all went downhill. Just as his senior career got legs, Reid was derailed by a debilitating bout of glandular fever.
Reid tried to make a return to the court, but health issues - including multiple arm injuries - meant he was never able to find the same form that had him tagged as a future grand slam winner.
"I never got over what happened to me when I was 19," Reid told AAP last month.
"I was on a nice trajectory then. If I hadn't got sick, I think I could have started pushing towards the second week at the slams and then who knows."
Henry said it was sad to know Reid's body was the only thing holding him back and reflected on why so many tennis players find it tough to adjust to life away from the professional circuit.
"Obviously, you just can't pursue a professional career like that, and it must have been incredibly frustrating for him because he knew that he was good enough to compete at the highest level of the game but his body basically didn't allow him to perform," Henry wrote.
"I'd seen him a few times in recent years at events like the Sydney International in January, and it was upsetting to see how hard he had found life after tennis. He wasn't the person I once knew, which was sad to see.
"There's a lot of excitement and adrenaline when competing in a one-on-one contest, and it feels like a life or death battle at times. It's not, but that adrenaline rush that you get multiple times every week travelling on the tour is really hard to replace in everyday life after the tour.
"The second thing that's really challenging is that your friendship groups change dramatically when you leave the tour. You might keep in touch, but all the people that you were close with are not constantly with you anymore.
"Lifestyle-wise, you go from travelling around the world from week to week with lots of variety to suddenly being stuck in one place and in a routine. Then, on top of that, a lot of players who have pursued that pro pathway don't really have an education behind them, either. Todd and I had both spent 30 weeks a year on the junior circuit, so we had to let go of our education about halfway through year 11."
Henry said this week's funeral was "emotional" and "very difficult for Todd's family", and said it was devastating to know Reid's life was taken far too soon.
"It's such an incredible shame when somebody's life ends way too prematurely," Henry said. "A lot of the current players aren't really aware of Todd, because he was out of the game so long. They might have seen him competing in local tournaments now and again in the last couple of years, but they wouldn't have seen the real Todd a lot of us once knew.
"He was a really fun person to be around, cheeky, and always up for a practical joke and a bit of harmless mischief. He didn't let too many people into his inner circle, but for those who were in there he was a very loyal and a very good friend.
"The sadness we're feeling is a mix of things.
"It's about such a great talent going unfulfilled, but about the person, foremost."
But as tragic as Reid's death is, Henry also remembered Reid who was almost unbeatable in his prime. Henry lauded Reid's confidence, his uncanny ability to "flick the switch" during a match and likened his fighting spirit to Aussie legend Lleyton Hewitt.
"We played doubles together all around the world, and something I always found fascinating about him was the fact that he loved digging a hole on the court and trying to find his way out," Henry wrote.
"We would constantly go down a set and a break before he would really turn his game on, and he almost found that exciting. I know he did. He absolutely loved the challenge he created for himself."