After Todd Reid, the former Australian teen tennis sensation, died at age 34 on Oct. 23, tributes came in from the tennis world — but none were more personal than an essay by a friend who had seen Reid just a week before.
Darren Walton, a sports journalist for the Australian Associated Press, played golf with Reid mere days prior to his death.
“He picked me up at 5:30 a.m., half an hour early because he couldn’t sleep. Or hadn’t slept, to be specific. Not because he’d been out on a bender or anything — those days were in the past,” Walton started his AAP piece, which The Sunday Morning Herald ran.
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Reid’s restlessness was for a positive reason. “The former Wimbledon junior champion was full of hope, excited about getting his life back together after a troubled few years and a touch-and-go battle with pancreatitis,” Walton continued.
“‘I’m pleased with that,’ he said after grinding out an eight-over-par front nine at the not-so-royal Northbridge club in Sydney and smashing down an egg-and-bacon roll at the halfway house,” Walton said.
Walton noted that Reid had a job that kept him in the tennis orbit. “Fourteen years after sharing centre court with Roger Federer in the third round of the Australian Open, Reid was now running the counter and coaching kids — but sadly now never mine — in suburban Sydney at the Matraville tennis and squash centre run by his father Bob and beautiful mother Sandra, herself a former professional,” Walton explained.
Walton detailed the “life-changing setback” that derailed Reid’s career: a battle with glandular fever. “I was their golden boy then,” Walton quoted Reid as saying about the prime of his career. “Now they won’t even give me tickets [to the Australian Open].”
“I never got over what happened to me when I was 19,” Reid had reportedly said, reflecting on the illness.
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“Todd Reid was still young,” Walton concluded. “Tragically, his time ran out.”
“Utterly devastated. Played golf with him last week and he was in great spirits, full of hope. An unbelievably humble talent from a beautiful family. Really feeling for his Mum. RIP brother. You were much loved,” Walton tweeted on Friday.
Reid was the Wimbledon junior singles champion in 2002 and was once Australia’s No. 3 tennis player, the Associated Press reported. He ranked as high as 105th in the world and made the third round of the Australian Open in 2004 before losing to Roger Federer, according to ESPN.
In a November 1997 profile of Reid in The New York Times, Dr. James Loehr worried that the pressures that Reid was facing were unhealthy for a teenager.
“This has all the earmarks of becoming a catastrophe. It’s way too early to decide if a 13-year-old boy is a phenom or a superstar, and from the outside, it sounds like the parents are leaving their son to the wolves,” Dr. Loehr said.