Andy Murray protege Aidan McHugh explains why tennis shutdown will be a huge mental and physical challenge

Eleanor Crooks
The Independent
Getty
Getty

Young British tennis player Aidan McHugh knows the coronavirus-enforced shutdown of tennis will prove a physical and mental challenge.

All professional tournaments have been cancelled or postponed until at least 7 June, and that date may well be pushed back again, with many countries expected to be in virtual lockdown for a number of weeks.

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McHugh is at his parents’ home in Glasgow, where he has access to some gym equipment but not a tennis court, with his usual training venue, Scotstoun Sports Campus, closing early last week.

The 19-year-old said: “It’s obviously tricky. Playing and training is the best way to feel like you’re staying on it.

“Before everything happened I was training to go and do another block of tournaments. I was planning to go to Israel, then they all got cancelled, then I was going to go to Greece and then the ITF (International Tennis Federation) and ATP suspended things across the board.

“So I used that to get a bit of rest with my family and now I’ve just been building up my fitness, so it’s a lot of cardio. It’s pretty boring, the same stuff every day, but you need to do it because you’re not able to run about on court.

“We’ll maybe need to do it in two cycles because it’s such a big block, I can’t train for 10 weeks straight. Then hopefully we’re ready to play tournaments.

“It’s not a normal occurrence so nobody is 100 per cent sure what the best thing is to do. It’s really just trying to be smart and everyone doing their bit in terms of trying to keep away from folk and keep everyone as healthy as they can and then we can all get through it quicker.”

Tennis players are used to living a peripatetic life, with even the off-season little more than a month long. So, while an extended spell at home will be welcome from one perspective, it also presents players with a very unfamiliar situation, and one that is likely to be hard to adjust to.

McHugh said: “I get bored very quickly. After three days of just being at home, I’m raring to go again.

Aidan McHugh in practice at Scotstoun Leisure Centre (Getty)
Aidan McHugh in practice at Scotstoun Leisure Centre (Getty)

“Mentally it is a weird one because normally we can see what we’re playing next. Even in pre-season, that’s the longest time where you get five weeks of good, hard training, but then you know what week you’re starting, whether this is unknown because things are changing every day.

“I think you’ve just got to look at it to try and improve yourself physically and work on your game where you can.”

For many lower-ranked players like McHugh, who sits at 552, the financial implications of being unable to play will be a serious concern.

The Scot is fortunate to be one of the more than 1,000 British players offered some form of support by the Lawn Tennis Association.

McHugh is on the Pro Scholarship Programme for those players aged 16-24 showing the greatest potential, which offers funding of up to £80,000 a year.

The LTA has been providing elite players with gym equipment to help them continue to train in these difficult circumstances.

McHugh also has an A-list mentor in Andy Murray, having been one of the first athletes to sign up to his fellow Scot’s 77 management agency.

“I’ve not spoken to him since it’s all kicked off but I had a nice catch-up with him a couple of months ago in London about my tennis and some improvements that I’d made,” said McHugh.

“He was very helpful. Hopefully, when things do get up and running I’m able to just keep moving in the right direction because I felt I made a lot of good progress from December through into January and February.

“It’s obviously frustrating for everyone but tennis isn’t the biggest thing in what’s going on.”

PA

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