In Her Own Words: Kerry Melville Reid

Armed with a tricky sidespin forehand, this Aussie member of the Original Nine spent a decade in the world's Top 10.

Published September 23, 2010 12:00

In Her Own Words: Kerry Melville Reid
Kerry Melville Reid

Kerry Melville Reid was 23 when the Original Nine took their stand in 1970. Among 22 singles titles won during her career she won her home Grand Slam, the Australian Open, in 1977. A further 40 finals included the Aussie Open in 1970, and in 1972 both the US Open and the nascent Virginia Slims Tour's first season-ending championships. Ranked in the Top 10 for nine of 11 years from 1969-79, she held the singles year-end No.5 spot from 1971-73, and won three doubles majors, including 1978 Wimbledon with Wendy Turnbull. She married fellow touring pro and Boston Lobsters WTT teammate Raz Reid in 1975, and played her last major at Flushing Meadows in 1979.

Houston felt like the start of something, and I remember being excited. I was just a little ol' Aussie… I wanted a better deal, of course, but I wouldn't put myself in the feminist category. I went a lot by what Judy (Dalton) did; it was good having her around. I think my parents were a little concerned, but I felt that with Billie Jean we had a strong leader. I think that's why a lot of us felt we had pretty good legs to stand on - she was a top player and she was powerful. And I remember how determined Gladys was to get the Tour started. She was such a great believer, and she had the connections to make it happen.

You have to have a weapon and I guess I was known for my sidespin forehand, inside out to the backhand side. Later, I learnt to play with more topspin. I was also pretty determined… I was a fighter. My poor husband sat through so many matches where I was down and somehow pulled out the win. All this time later I can't actually think of a painful match that got away - I tended to be the one doing that to the other players!

Chris Evert was my toughest opponent. In the end I had a pretty decent record against most of the top girls but I only beat Chrissie a couple of times; once when she was about 16 and a couple of years later, in the semis of the US Open in '72. She always got one more ball back! It's funny how some opponents' games suit yours or don't. I didn't beat Billie Jean in that final at Forest Hills, but I always felt I had a shot against her, even though she'd be the favorite. I remember Virginia Wade's volleys being tougher to deal with.

Aside from reaching the US Open final, I'd put winning the Wimbledon doubles with Wendy up there with my best moments. As for favorite tournaments, I always liked to play the Family Circle Cup at Hilton Head. I got to the final four times in the seventies, including the last final of my career, in 1979. I beat Martina Navratilova for the first time in tournament play in the semis, but lost to Tracy Austin in the final - two tie-breaks!

After Raz and I married we settled at Hilton Head and we're still here. I just love it. I enjoy watching the majors on TV but I don't play tennis much any more; I guess after so many years I got a bit burnt out. These days I'm really into my golf, we live next to a beautiful course and it's great exercise for me. Raz is still working: He's a sales rep for various fly fishing companies and I help him with that. I'll do some work, then go out and hit some golf balls.

When I was young I looked up to Margaret Court, who I knew through a mutual coach. Once, when I was 13 or so, she returned from an overseas trip with a Fred Perry skirt and shirt for me. I remember being so thrilled. Having being beaten in the final by Margaret in 1970, finally winning the Australian Open in 1977 is a very special memory. It was in my home town of Melbourne, with my family and friends including Neil Guiney, who had coached me, watching.

We still get back to Australia just about every year, to see my mother and the rest of the family. I haven't been to the Australian Open for such a long time, but last January the tournament gave tickets to my daughter, Kimi. She phoned to tell me where she was sitting, and that she had spotted Billie Jean and Rosie. She'd met them when she was little - she's 28 now - so I told her to go over and say hello.

Kimi is a chef and she's been working on yachts; that's what took her to Australia. My other daughter, Kati, is 30. She lives in Seattle and is at business school right now. She's very outdoorsy. Kimi just moved out West as well, so they're both on the other side of the country, but at least I'll be able to visit them both on the same trips.

As the two Australians in the Original Nine, Judy and I were banned from playing at home for a while, but everything turned out fine. Some of the other girls took more time to come on board and I could understand - it was a big decision to make in your career - but I could also see why it aggravated others. Looking back, I'm just really proud to have been one of the first girls, and proud of it what tennis has become. The game just gets better and better, stronger and stronger. Back then, it did mean a lot of extra work for us, doing so much PR and the like… I don't know how we had time to hit a ball, actually! Billie Jean and Rosie were especially busy with it all, but we all contributed.

Interview by Adam Lincoln, September 2010

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