SPENDING Christmas in Florida rather than Paisley doesn’t seem the worst of trade-offs. Unable to fly home for the holidays at the end of last year, Connor Thomson chose instead to join team-mate Carter Morgan and his family for a month of sunshine and golf.

“It was a bit weird having Christmas Day with someone else’s family as you felt a bit like a fifth wheel,” admitted the 20 year-old.

“But they were brilliant with me and even got me some presents. Luckily I’d asked my parents to send over presents for all of them too to say thank you. I ended up staying there for about a month and managed to fit in a few rounds of golf. The weather was cracking for the most part, too.”

That's not the full story, of course. Because there was tennis too. Lots of tennis. And gym sessions and draining work-outs. For that is the very reason Thomson is in the United States as he nudges past the midway point of the second year of his tennis scholarship at the University of South Carolina.

With his first year as a Gamecock derailed by Covid, the former Wimbledon juniors quarter-finalist now has the option of making it a five-year stay in total.

Given the facilities, the coaching and the serious level of competition at college level, little wonder that the psychology sophomore is already giving it some serious consideration.

“It’s getting harder and harder now just to walk out of juniors and join the tour,” he reasoned. “You’re up against men and it’s physically demanding and tough.

“In college you get access to some of the best facilities and great coaches, a lot of whom are ex-professionals. And that’s a brilliant experience. To have the back-up of getting a degree as well in case the tennis doesn’t work out can only help, too.

“The colleges plough so much money into sport so we’re almost like an investment for them. If we can do well then they can publicise that and they get additional funding from it. They also have college alumni who donate money if the team is doing well to continue that success.

“If there was a chance to turn full-time with tennis I would do that in a heartbeat. But for right now being here is the best place for me.”

Thomson, whose day Malky is the head coach of the Rangers women’s team, has taken part in Tennis Scotland’s Between the Lines video diary series, to let others see what his daily routine involves. 

“I decided I would do it by taking people along with me on a typical day rather than me just talking the whole time,” he added.

“The majority of it was filmed in December when I was in Florida so it was just to try to give some insight to show maybe juniors what it’s like as a college player.

“I wish it had been just me lying on a beach! The reality is it’s early mornings, long days and a tough shift. But I’d definitely recommend this route to anyone who might have the chance to do it.”

All being well, Thomson plans on returning home this summer for a brief family reunion before putting in some “grind” by playing as many tournaments as he can fit in.

And if a return to Wimbledon was a possibility, he would grab that with both hands. 

“I’m hoping once this semester is done I can get home for a few weeks at the end of May to see the family. And I’d love to just hang out with them all summer ideally. 

“But you can’t stop the train. You have to keep going. I’m 20 now and I have to keep moving forward and trying to progress my career. So I’m looking to play in tournaments for the whole summer just to keep the momentum going that I’ve been building over here.

“I’d love to play the grass court season but if that doesn’t happen I’ll play on the Futures tour anywhere in Europe and just grind for eight weeks over the summer. I need to get in good quality matches and jump up levels.

“I’d love to qualify for Wimbledon again if that was a possibility. That would be unbelievable. Having been there before you get a taste for it so any time you can get a chance to go back you take that instantly."