"Tennis has always been my first love" - Paralympic basketball star Robyn Love on her wheelchair tennis aspirations encouraged by Gordon Reid
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Tennis was Robyn Love's first sport passion and now she has set her sights on the ultimate goal in the sport.
After a sparking career in basketball that included appearances in the Rio and Tokyo Paralympics, this 32-year-old athlete has been inspired to switch her attentions to tennis thanks to the encouragement of her fellow Scot Gordon Reid.
Born with arthrogryposis, a condition that meant her right leg was considerably shorter than her left, ensured her dreams of competing at the highest level of able-bodied tennis were halted in her teenage years.
Yet a chat with Reid as they competed in different sports at the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2021 reignited her tennis dream, with the offer of a chair from the 22-time major champion giving her the final push she needed to get back on court.
"Tennis has always been my first love," began Love, speaking at our ITF2 Wheelchair Tennis Tournament in Bolton.
"It was the sport I played before any other when I was growing up, so this transition to playing big events like this in Bolton is so exciting for me.
"I looked into trying to compete in tennis a few times in recent years, but you need someone to open doors. The cost of chairs and coaching is difficult to overcome, but Gordon said I could have his spare one and that was the moment when I decided to go all in with tennis.
"When I started in basketball, someone bought me a chair out of their own money and that got me on my way in that sport. Then when I wanted to get my own chair, I had to fundraise and we called the campaign 'Love is in the chair'. I raised about £5,000 and I needed that.
"At the time, I was earning about £20,000-a-year and living in an expensive city in Edinburgh. My Mum works in Boots, my Dad sells hair products to hairdressers, so we are not loaded.
"That was the problem when I looked into chairs to play tennis, but Gordon said I could have one of his old chairs and encouraged me to get into wheelchair tennis, I had to try it.
"I was worried my bum wouldn't fit in his chair! But thankfully Gordon and I must be a similar build and it has worked out really well."
For his part, Reid is excited by the prospect of a new star in British women's tennis, as he believes Love's competitive spirit will carry her a long way in the sport.
"I met Robyn first through basketball because I played for a team up in Glasgow and she has obviously reached the top of the game," he reflects. "She is a very nice girl, very friendly and approachable, so we got on from the word go.
"I tried basketball myself, but I was never at the level I needed to think about playing at the top level, but I love the sport. It has always been a hobby for me, but clearly Robyn played a completely different level to me.
"I knew Robyn liked tennis and encouraged her to come and try and play and that's when the idea of giving her one of my old chairs came up.
"We don't have many female players in Scotland, she is obviously a great athlete and is so competitive, so we had a conversation at the Tokyo Paralympics and said she could have my spare chair.
"It's great to see her giving so much to the sport and it's exciting for wheelchair tennis in Britain that we have another female player who is working hard to get to the top."
Love won her first wheelchair tennis tournament last October and secured her best career win to date in Bolton on Wednesday, beating world No.30 Chiyo Sasaki in impressive fashion.
That victory has inspired Love to reach for more and with a new baby on the way for Robyn and her partner Laurie, 2023 is shaping up to be a year that will change her life forever on and off the court.
"The baby is due in six weeks and hopefully my move into tennis is better for this massive change Laurie and I have coming our way," she added.
"In a team sport, you have to turn up at a certain time and fit in with everyone else, but that isn't the case with tennis. I can pick and choose when I train and that gives me a chance to work around the baby who will be coming into our lives in a few weeks' time.
"I'm at the early stage of my tennis journey, but I'm loving the challenge of trying to get to the next level and beating a player like Sasaki gives me so much inspiration to work hard and get to the top.
"The support we get from the LTA in this country is so important to a wheelchair tennis player and I'm fortunate to be one of those getting a chance to live out my dream.
Supported by our Pro Potential Programe, she added: "My ultimate goal in this sport is playing in the majors and obviously Wimbledon is where we all want to be. We trained there at the start of the year and it is such a magical place.
"When I was asked about my dreams when I was young, I always used to say I wanted to be like Tim Henman at Wimbledon. I had my Slazenger racket and loved watching Henman play. Now it feels like my Wimbledon dream could be possible."
A new Scottish star is eager to make her mark on the global tennis stage and the competitive spirit that took Love to the top in basketball is now being taken onto the court.