BRUCE STRACHAN stands as living, breathing evidence of the Andy Murray factor.
The Scot - his fine run at the AEGON GB Pro-Series event at Scotstoun came to an end yesterday with a battling 7-5, 6-3 loss to the No.2 seed Maxime Authom of Belgium - has encountered the world No.4 just once, but the meeting left quite an impression.
The occasion was the Aberdeen Cup exhibition event in the mid-2000s which pitted Scotland against England, and the impressionable Strachan, born and raised in the Granite City, was a ball boy. It is now no longer too outlandish to think that he could one day be playing in the same tournaments as his idol on tour.
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The 19-year-old's epic, three-set, first-round victory against the Englishman Robert Carter - he recovered from a set and a break down and then held off a fightback in the final set after he served for it at 5-2 - seems likely to result in his ranking rising some 500 places from its current 2041. Strachan could even line up alongside his fellow Scot should the now-defunct exhibition ever be revived.
"Andy is absolutely an inspiration to me," said Strachan. "I was a bit too young to grow up with him through the tournaments but I was ballboy for him at the Aberdeen Cup. It must have been around eight years ago; I was maybe 11 or 12. I remember that he beat Greg Rusedski and I have still got a signed ball from him so, yeah, he is definitely a big idol of mine.
"When I was thinking about taking time out from the sport, maybe there are little things like that which make you decide to do it [keep going]; that a guy like that can make it big coming from a place like Scotland."
Murray is not the only high-profile sports star from whom Strachan derives inspiration. The former Aberdeen Grammar School pupil is being supported by the foundation run by the 1999 Open golf champion Paul Lawrie, as he practises full-time among students at the University of Stirling sports campus.
Despite his defeat by Authom - he is the world No.272 and made it to Wimbledon qualifying last year - it has been a good week. "On paper, ranking-wise, and probably in other ways, that [his first-round victory over Carter] was the biggest win of my career," said Strachan.
"As for today, almost every game on his serve I was getting deuces on his serve, but he made a few aces at important times. It is all good experience; this is definitely a level up from what I was used to. I have left school so I am going to give it a bash.
"I am going 100% for my tennis now and, if it works out then great; if not then I will do engineering at university. That is my plan."
Since Jamie Baker - he is still No.516 in the rankings - retired from the sport after last year's Wimbledon, the battle to be Scottish No.2 is gathering momentum. Colin Fleming's singles ranking has lapsed, Jonny O'Mara, from Arbroath, is No.941; Scott Duncan is 1979.
"My next goal is to get as many ATP points as I can," said Strachan. "It would be good to break into the top 1000, compete in the Futures events and maybe try a few Challengers, but we all have a lot of work to do before we catch up with [Murray]."
Meanwhile, another heir apparent was also making strides yesterday. Maia Lumsden - she is a family friend who was a guest of the world No.4 at last year's AEGON Championship final at Queen's Club - moved into the second round of the women's event with a 7-5, 6-4 win against another British wildcard, Sarah Beth Askew. Lumsden, who turned 16 on Sunday, faces the No.1 seed Tara Moore today.