THE last year has been such a whirlwind for tennis prospect Connor Thomson that perhaps a bit of enforced downtime won’t have done him any harm at all.

Twelve months ago, the 19 year-old and partner Jacob Fearnley were living out their dreams by reaching the quarter-finals of the boys doubles tournament at Wimbledon.

A few weeks later and Thomson was flying across the Atlantic to start a new life in the United States on a tennis scholarship at the University of South Carolina.

That first year of college life was brought to a shuddering halt when the pandemic saw the remainder of the domestic season cancelled, with Thomson choosing to return home to spend lockdown with his family in Paisley.
He will soon be packing his bags again for his second year at South Carolina having completed his first year online at home.

The long-term goal is to help fill the void that will be left by the eventual retirement of Jamie and Andy Murray. If he can become a Wimbledon regular to replicate the experiences of last summer then that would be nice, too.

“That three-week stretch on the grass last summer was one of the best periods of my life when we won in Nottingham and Roehampton and then went to Wimbledon,” he recalled.

“We ran out of energy by the quarters but it was an amazing experience to play on that type of court on that stage. That was one of the best moments of my life. And the best thing was being able to bring my family down to watch and let them experience it as well.

“My long-term goals are to reach the top 100 in the world and look after my family. To play in the grand slams on a regular basis and have my parents there watching would be brilliant. They’ve put in so much energy and effort to support my tennis so far. I want to give something back to them.”

A promising youth player with St Mirren, Thomson almost ended up following his dad Malky - now coach of the Rangers women’s team - and brother Callum into football. Instead, it was tennis that won that particular battle.

“I had to make a decision at the age of 12,” he revealed. “I had just moved to the village of Houston and joined the local tennis club as you do when you’re looking to make new friends! I got to a similar level in both sports but because tennis was fresher I went for that. And I’ve never looked back since.”

Time spent in the company of Jamie Murray last summer also confirmed he had made the right choice.

“That was a great experience to train with him out in La Manga,” he added.

“He gave me lots of tips and tactics on how to play doubles which came in handy when I played at Wimbledon. He brought us along to watch a couple of his matches at Queens in his box and it was just great to spend some time with him.”

The onus now is on Thomson and others like Jonny O’Mara, Aidy McHugh and Maia Lumsden to follow in the Murrays’ footsteps.

To that end Tennis Scotland has launched a national player programme that will provide tailored coaching, funding and promotional support to the country’s next generation of stars.

As well as access to centralised training at the national tennis centre at the University of Stirling, the 11 players selected will also be given sport science and medicine support via the sportscotland Institute for Sport and financial grants to help meet their costs.

“Now is the time to be looking to capitalise on the Murrays’ success and I genuinely believe there’s enough Scottish talent coming through to fill that vacuum,” added Thomson.

“Tennis Scotland’s player programme will help players reach their potential. The financial side of things is huge for us so it’s great to have that backing. But not only that getting access to equipment, facilities, sports science and physiotherapy is all taken care of.

“We have that in the States so it’s good to have that structure at home now to keep on improving when I’m back in the winter and summer. Tennis Scotland are also looking to create a team atmosphere where we’re all stronger together. It makes you feel like you’re a part of something and not just battling on your own.”