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Being rejected for an interview as a journalist at The Oban Times more than 10 years ago sent Stuart Fraser on a journey that eventually landed him a job at the top of his field.
Now the number one tennis correspondent for The Times newspaper, and based in London, the 33-year-old is at the top of his game, but still remembers with great fondness where it all started.
‘I can honestly say that not getting an interview for The Oban Times post gave me the kick up the backside I needed,’ said Stuart, speaking from Royal Port Rush last week before reporting on the British Open. He sometimes does other sports too.
‘They said I didn’t have enough writing experience and they were right. I didn’t. It was 100 per cent what I needed to hear at that point.’
Most of Stuart’s journalistic experiences prior to that rejection had been with Oban FM where he had volunteered on the sports show on a Saturday night, along with making teas and answering phones.
‘I really enjoyed working at Oban FM. Through that I covered shinty and football matches and got to know all the local sports people. It was a great foundation for my future career.
‘If I can give any advice to people looking at a career in journalism, it is to start at local level and speak to coaches and players that you are familiar with. It will stand you in good stead when you move on to those big interviews.
‘Dream big and look to the future also.’
Stuart spent his early years in Bridge of Orchy before moving to Dalmally and eventually Oban where he developed an interest in sport from an early age and loved watching all the big events on TV.
‘I particularly loved the tennis,’ he added, ‘I have no idea why.’
As soon as he moved to Oban, Stuart joined the tennis club and spent many happy years playing there. His involvement in the West Highland Championships meant he met players such as Malcolm Watt and doubles specialist Colin Fleming.
Speaking to players of such high calibre only fuelled Stuart’s appetite to become a top class tennis writer and that’s exactly what he did.
At the age of 22, following a spell in a supermarket petrol station, rejection from The Oban Times and considering a career in air traffic control, Stuart enrolled in a three-year journalism course at West of Scotland University.
‘The course was great for the areas I didn’t have a great knowledge in, like writing and law, and I was also able to get out and earn some money doing freelance work,’ he added.
‘I started covering the ITF (Futures) events working 12 hours a day for £20 a day.’
The experience was priceless though.
Stuart had also noticed that tennis was getting bigger and that a young lad from Dunblane was rising through the Scottish ranks and no-one seemed to be paying much attention.
‘I started to travel to the tournaments Andy Murray was playing at,’ he continued.
‘I got in touch with the Daily Record and they went with it and it eventually paid off for me.’
Stuart moved to London in 2012 to be closer to where all the action was and after four years doing freelance shifts on the sports desk at the Daily Mail, he got a job as the tennis writer at the Times.
Stuart now travels the world reporting on all the major tennis tournaments, as well as some of the other big sporting events.
Last weekend he was reporting from Royal Portrush, and keeping a close eye on another Oban success story.
‘I have become accustomed to staying neutral over the past few years or so but I may allow myself a small fist pump if Bob (MacIntyre) does well,’ he concluded.