The past couple of weeks in Aidan McHugh’s life of a touring tennis pro cannot be described as anything other than epic.
A 16,000-mile round trip from Heraklion, Greece, to Singapore, via a brief pit-stop in native Glasgow, ended with his third ITF Futures title after a 6-2, 6-2 victory over fellow Brit Jonathan Gray. That is only half the story.
He returned home to discover that the title was rewarded with a wild card to the Wimbledon qualifiers. A happy homecoming present after a six-week stretch on the road, in the air, and on the court.
But the real drama unfolded the moment he left the court in the M15 Heraklion Final, where he lost 1-6, 4-6 to Greek pro Michail Ervolorakis.
“It was terrific to reach the final but as soon as I left the court I had to start planning for Singapore, where the first round was due to take place on the Tuesday,” he recalled. “I had to email the tournament referee to see if I could delay my match by 24 hours to get home.
“I got a late flight to Glasgow on Sunday night and arrived home in the early hours of Monday morning. I then had a flight to London that was delayed so I missed the connection and thought ‘there’s no way I’m making this first round’.
“Needless to say, I got the next flight, arrived in Singapore at 6am on Wednesday morning ahead of a match at midday. I had enough time to get to the hotel, have a 40 minute sleep, and then get to the venue.”
His feet had barely touched the ground before Aidan found himself encountering the oppressive 30 degree heat and 85% humidity of Singapore. Unfazed, he progressed to one M15 final against Dayne Kelly, losing 6-3, 6-0, but finishing victorious a week later against against Gray.
“It was tough, and sometimes ugly, with a lot of retirals; people just stopping and wilting in the heat,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever sweated as much. I’ve had to change shirts before but this was the first time I had to change shorts it was that humid. I actually wondered what was happening to my shoes because it felt like I was stepping into a puddle – it wasn’t from my socks but I think the soles were retaining water too.
“All in all the last six weeks has been a great experience though. The way the ranking system changed, I went from being one of the highest ranked among the ITF Futures to coming up against really good players who have come down from the Challenger Tour. It has helped me get used to playing at a higher level more consistently and winning in Singapore has vindicated that longer stretch on the road.”
With Wimbledon qualifying to look forward to, Aidan revealed he has exchanged good luck messages with his mentor Sir Andy Murray, who made his return from hip surgery this week at the Fever Tree Championships at Queens Club.
“I am delighted to have received a wild card for the Wimbledon qualifiers and I think my experience of playing Junior Wimbledon will help,” he said. “I won’t put any pressure on myself but obviously it’s your home slam and you want to be part of it.
“I messaged Andy to say good luck this week and he congratulated me on my win. It’s always reassuring to know that he’s keeping an eye on my progress even as he is in the middle of his own comeback.”