For aspiring tennis player Connor Thomson, the past year has been so turbulent that maybe a little time off might not have harmed him.
Twelve months ago, by reaching the quarterfinals of the boys’ doubles tournament at Wimbledon, 19-year-old Jacob Fearnley and his partner fulfilled their hopes.
A few weeks later, on a tennis scholarship to the University of South Carolina, Thomson traveled across the Atlantic to start a new life in the United States.
When the pandemic prompted the cancellation of the rest of the domestic season, the first year of college life was suddenly halted. To take some time off with his family in Paisley, Thomson wanted to return home.
After completing his first year online at home, he will soon be packing his bags again for his second year in South Carolina.
The long-term aim is to fill the vacuum created by Jamie and Andy Murray’s imminent retirement. If he could become a regular at Wimbledon to replicate the experience of last summer, that would be cool, too.
“That three-week stretch on grass last summer was one of the best of my life when we won at Nottingham and Roehampton and then went to Wimbledon,” he recalled.
In the quarterfinals, we ran out of steam, but playing on that stage on that kind of court was an amazing experience. It was one of my life’s greatest moments. And the best part was that I was able to bring my family to watch so that they could also experience it.
My long-term ambitions are to hit the world’s top 100 and take care of my family. It would be nice to play at the Grand Slams regularly and have my parents there to watch. They have invested so much energy and commitment into helping my tennis so far. I want to give them back something.’
Thomson almost followed his father Malky – now coach of the Rangers women’s team – and brother Callum into soccer as a talented youth player at St. Mirren. Instead, that particular battle was won by tennis.
When I was 12 years old, I had to make a decision,” he revealed. “I had just moved to Houston village and joined the local tennis club, like you do when you want to make new friends! In both sports, I achieved a similar standard, but because tennis was fresher, I chose tennis. And since then, I’ve never looked back.’
The time he spent last summer in the company of Jamie Murray also indicated that he had made the right decision.
That was a great experience, training out in La Manga with him,”That was a great experience, training with him out in La Manga,”
When I played Wimbledon, he gave me plenty of advice and tactics on how to play doubles, which was very helpful. He took us to his box to watch a few of his matches at Queens and it was just nice to spend some time with him.
It’s up to Thomson, and others including Jonny O’Mara, Aidy McHugh, and Maia Lumsden to follow in the footsteps of Murray.
To that end, Tennis Scotland has introduced a national player program that provides the country’s next generation of stars with personalized training, financial support and promotion.
As well as access to centralized training at the University of Stirling’s National Tennis Centre, the 11 players chosen will also receive sports science and medical support from the Sports Scottish Institute for Sport, as well as financial grants to help cover their expenses.
“Now is the time to capitalize on the success of the Murrays and I firmly believe there is enough Scottish talent to fill that vacuum,” Thomson added.
The Player Software for Tennis Scotland will help players fulfill their potential. The financial side of things is huge for us, so that support is fantastic to have. But not only that, there is also access to supplies, services, sports science and physiotherapy.
“We have that in the States, so it’s good to have that structure at home now to help me continue to improve when I’m back in the winter and summer. Tennis Scotland is also trying to create a team atmosphere where we are all stronger together. It makes you feel like you’re a part of something and not just struggling on your own.”