Andy Murray has made no secret of the fact that he would like to see an ATP World Tour event on Scottish soil at some point in the future. There is certainly the enthusiasm for it north of the border, but there are a number of complex issues which means, for now, us Scots will have to make do with the occasional Davis Cup tie and three annual Futures events, two in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh.
One of these Futures takes place this week when the Scotstoun Leisure Centre welcomes a mixture of journeyman professionals and up-and-coming teenagers scrapping for every extra ranking point they can muster in an effort to climb up the world rankings.
While the tennis on show may not exactly live up to the standard of the classic US Open Final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal last month - the top-ranked men’s player at Scotstoun this week is world No.287 Marco Crugnola, of Italy - it is still of a high enough level for even the most casual of tennis fans to enjoy.
It is the raw nature of Futures events which can often make for compelling viewing. The action is held on adjacent courts with one umpire, one line judge and no ball boys. In fact, play in some matches can often be brought to a halt as a ball rolls onto court from the next one along.
Main draw first-round matches are where you can witness some epic battles. Players at Scotstoun tomorrow will fight extremely hard to avoid being the loser who walks away on the first day with no ranking points and a cheque for just $176.25 which, for many, won’t even come close to covering travel and accommodation costs.
It’s not easy working your way up the tennis rankings, but the Futures circuit is where many of today’s top players have once plied their trade. Murray was a previous winner of the Glasgow event in 2003 when he was just 16-years-old.
Australian Matthew Ebden provides a positive story of what can be achieved within 12 months. Last year, he picked up a cheque for $1950 and 27 ranking points for winning the event at Scotstoun. Last week, his run to the quarter-finals at the Shanghai Masters, where he was beaten by Murray, earned him $77,800 and 180 points, putting him in the top 100 for the first time today at No.80.
But while there are some, like Ebden, who have gone on to bigger things, there are players who return to Glasgow having achieved little progress in the rankings over the past year. Britons Dan Cox, Dan Evans and Joshua Goodall are familiar faces at Scotstoun, and whilst it is nice to welcome them back to Scotland, if they had made the progress they would have hoped to achieve, they would not be back here this week.
One player who comes to Scotstoun with big hopes for the future is the US Open junior champion Oliver Golding. There is a lot of talk surrounding the 18-year-old Brit after his success in New York last month, but there is still a lot of work to do as he makes the transition to the senior circuit. These are just the early steps and it will be interesting to see how the young wild card entrant performs this week.
Sadly there is no Scottish interest in the men’s event as Glasgow’s Jamie Baker is competing at the Mansfield Futures in Texas this week, although we can surely claim, to some extent, the world No.785, Nicolas Rosenzweig.
The Frenchman moved to Broughty Ferry in Scotland with his family at the age of four and has, in the past, trained at the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona, Murray’s old training base. The 25-year-old is one of these unique ambidextrous players who effectively plays a forehand off both sides and is surely worth a look for those who head along this week.
Also taking place at the same time at Scotstoun is the $25k women’s event, which is headed by Austrian Yvonne Meusberger, the world No.157. There are no British direct acceptances, which is quite rare for a home event, although four Brits have received wild cards, including 16-year-old Emma Devine from Edinburgh.
Another player worth keeping a look out for is 18-year-old Kristina Mladenovic, of France. You may remember her from this year’s Hopman Cup in Australia when she beat Laura Robson, before teaming up with Nicolas Mahut in the mixed doubles match to beat Murray and Robson in straight sets. She also won the 2009 Junior French Open Girls’ Singles.
So not only do you get to witness professional tennis close up if you head along, you may also get to see a star of the future. Entry is free with play starting at 10am each day.