A TWO-FOLD reward for a productive year on the tennis court is set to arrive right at the end of 2021 for Aidan McHugh.

Some serendipitous timing sees the 21 year-old return to Scotland in the run-up to Christmas after a long period on the road playing in the States before training blocks in London and then the warmth of Dubai.

His final commitment of this year is one he has been looking forward to for some time after being called up by Team Scotland for the Schroders Battle of the Brits tournament in Aberdeen.

With the Scots line-up to face England made up of Jamie and Andy Murray, world number 12 Cam Norrie and doubles expert Jonny O’Mara, McHugh’s role for now on December 21 and 22 is restricted to that of first reserve and team cheerleader.

But the chance to hook up with old pals for what should be a fun few days in the Granite City is something he’s keen to be a part of.

“I was speaking to Jamie the other day and I’m really grateful to him for pulling this all together,” he says. “To have it in Scotland is amazing and that’s credit to his organisational skills.

“I’m really proud to be part of Team Scotland as I love my country. And being in the mix with Andy, Jamie, Cam and Jonny – all great guys – is going to be a lot of fun.

“It’s going to be an unbelievable way to finish the year. I was in the gym with Andy recently and told him that if he’s feeling tired at any point I’ll be ready to step in!

“I’m going to Dubai beforehand for two weeks with Dan Evans who’s playing for England so that will be interesting. I’m sure this event will come up once or twice in conversation.”

The non-tennis captains are of a decent calibre, too. Scotland have one-time Rangers and Scotland striker Ally McCoist and former Open champion Paul Lawrie in their camp, with England represented by former Celtic striker Chris Sutton and broadcaster Clare Balding.

As a lifelong Celtic fan, McHugh admits to having a slight conflict of interest on that front but says the chance to work alongside McCoist will be a real thrill.

“It’s a bit surreal having grown up watching Ally McCoist on TV that he’s going to be helping out with the captaincy,” he laughs. “It’s really cool. And Paul Lawrie as well who’s a golf legend.

“I’m sure I’ll try to grab a word with Chris Sutton as well for a bit of Celtic chat!”

McHugh is still hopeful of using the window of a rare trip back to Scotland to see if he can get a ticket to watch his beloved Hoops take on Hibernian in the Premier Sports Cup final just two days before the tennis gets underway.

“I’ve been looking at the dates and I think I might be back in time,” he reveals. “And if I’m back I’ll definitely try to get to Hampden.”

This has been another productive year for McHugh who reached a career high of 330 in the world, played at Wimbledon and won an M25 event in Dominican Republic.

It can often be something of a slog at the lower end of professional tennis, with the Bearsden athlete’s schedule taking him all across Europe, North America and even into Egypt and India, often for little financial reward. For comparison, his rough equivalent in the golf world rankings, Maverick Antcliff, has earned around ten times more this year.

McHugh is seeing sufficient improvements, however, to believe he is on the right path.

“I didn’t get as many rewards as I would have liked in the first four or five months of this year,” he admits. “But over the last six months it’s started to change in my favour.

“Regardless of results I was just really happy to have put myself out there a lot. I finished on 52 singles wins. Cam has got around 53 or 54 so I told him I was going to try to squeeze in another tournament to try to beat him!

“Overall including doubles, I had about 90 wins for the year. At the start there weren't a huge amount of tournaments taking place due to Covid so everyone was heading to the same events which made it a lot tougher.

“But I kept playing and started to get a few more chances.

“I was in America for a spell recently and it went well. It was the first time I’d ever been to Vegas and the place is crazy! But I loved it.

“Overall it was a decent block. Going into that trip I wanted to finish the year strong and move my ranking in the next direction and I felt I did that.

“Making more Grand Slam qualifiers is a big goal of mine for next year and I’ll be doing all I can to make it happen.”