WIMBLEDON isn’t far away now. In fact, for the hopefuls who will turn up in Roehampton on Monday to compete in the qualifying

competition, the distance to the hallowed lawns of the All England Club is no more than three miles – and three matches.

Bearsden and Scotland’s Aidan McHugh and Maia Lumsden are among those in that tantalising

position right now, both hoping their excellent recent form will help them make their way into the main draw of the men’s and ladies’ singles for the first time.

McHugh, 18, who is signed up to Andy Murray’s 77 Sports

Management group, won an ITF event out in Singapore only a week ago, while Stirling-based Lumsden has risen to a career-high ranking of No.266 after a spell which saw her rack up her first WTA tour win.

No-one would be more delighted to see the pair make it than Blane Dodds, the chief executive of Tennis Scotland, although he knows to his cost how those final yards can often be the hardest.

A talented player in his own right, his chances of competing at Wimbledon disappeared back in 1990 due to what wasn’t so much a clerical error as an in-built home counties bias in the system. Turning up for the old British pre-qualifying, he discovered that the tournament was somewhat oversubscribed.

“I played the quallies way back in 1990,” Dodds recalls. “There was a British pre-qualifying event and I had a rating that meant I could get into it.

“There were 12 spaces and 14

players who turned up so Alan Mills, the Wimbledon ref, agreed with all the players that they would just have a draw to see who got in.

“My name was one of the 14 which wasn’t picked so I had to pack up again and go back home,” he added. “And that was the only time I made it to that level.

“The classic was that there were guys in the draw who I had beaten – easily – but they had better ratings than me because there were more tournaments down there and more chances to get your rating up.

I remember thinking at the time whether I would be good enough to make it, I didn’t know whether to purse my tennis or my career in

business, so that was probably the sign I was looking for.”

As it happens, Dodds is still engaged in the business of attempting to ensure that Scotland still gets a fair crack of the whip from the tennis authorities south of the border. Involved in what he calls “positive discussions” with Lawn Tennis

Association (LTA) supremo Scott Lloyd, first minister Nicola Sturgeon and Judy Murray at Holyrood recently about how to secure the Murray legacy in this country, he has urged the LTA to stump up the

additional cash which would allow them to make Tennis Scotland’s ambitious plans, harnessing Judy’s proposed base near Dunblane as a workforce development centre,

a reality.

With the LTA’s annual turnover north of £60m, a significant uplift is sought on the £700-£800k which they provide annually in core funding for Tennis Scotland. As it happens, the new three-year funding cycle

begins on July 1, the first day of Wimbledon. With funding for the new national academy in Stirling (in which no Scottish players, for now, will feature) and capital projects such as expanding Scotland’s paltry

provision of indoor courts coming from different pots, the case for an increase is clear both on population grounds and by dint of an increase in club membership which is up from 30,000 to 57,000 during the

Murray era.

“We know the Murrays aren’t going to be there forever,” said Dodds. “We’ve had three No.1s from

Scotland [Andy, Jamie and Gordon Reid] and they are all still competing so we need to make the most of it.

“We have got a very ambitious plan, which is being supported by sportscotland, the government and Judy’s foundation, the last bit of the jigsaw is to get the support of the LTA, with all their resource,” he added. “The first minister was extremely supportive of the plans and the need for a legacy in Scotland on top of what the Murray boys, Gordon Reid and Judy herself has achieved. Judy’s own plans for her workforce development centre are very much within the plans going forward.

“The new partnership and investment cycle begins on July 1, the day Wimbledon starts, so that is the day we expect the offer and the contract from the LTA to start the new three-year planning cycle.

“We don’t know how that is going to pan out right now but we are very hopeful that we have put together a very detailed and ambitious plan which is the right plan for Scotland and aligned with the LTA’s greater plan and plans we submitted to sportscotland a year ago.

“The last bit of the jigsaw is for the LTA to invest in it in the appropriate way. We do think we haven’t succeeded in the past when it comes to getting the right investment for Scotland and we are making the case for a greater investment so we can make a bigger difference.

“We feel we are a good bet because we have had such success in the past, not only in performance tennis but with a huge growth in membership.”

We will wait and see on that one but some good news for the sport arrives today with the expansion of the network of Scottish courts to have signed up for the Tennis for Free scheme.

The brainchild of comedian Tony Hawks, this is a business which allows use of courts, free of charge, to members of the public and there are 25,000 more opportunities for Scots to get a free taster of the sports after an additional 14 facilities north of the border signed up to the scheme.

“This is all about breaking down barriers, it can be quite intimidating joining a private club, albeit we have pretty much doubled our membership during the Murray era,” said Dodds.

“We need to give an opportunity to those who want to try it before they join – and that is free of charge, free courts, free equipment, in all these locations around Scotland.”

It is a far cry from these starter sessions – which you can sign up for on the Tennis for Free or Tennis Scotland website – to the manicured lawns of SW19. But everybody has to start somewhere.

n The new venues will be inviting Tennis For Free participants from Saturday June 22. You can find your nearest venue by visiting