AIDAN McHugh would be forgiven for thinking it was all some bizarre hallucinogenic dream. Was this teenager from Bearsden, clad in smart jeans and jacket as though he had wandered in off the streets of Finnieston, really being motioned on court by Andy Murray to play a tie breaker against the greatest tennis player of all time, Roger Federer, in front of a sell-out crowd of 11,000 people in his home city? This, though, is the new reality which McHugh gets to inhabit from time to time, the latest in a series of brushes with the sport’s great and good which should hopefully only become more regular with time. Alas Federer won both points – the gallus McHugh vowed to ‘get him the next time for sure’ - but the incident was the climax to a 12-month period which has been the stuff of dreams.

It all started off, you may recall, this time last year with a training block with Jamie and Andy Murray out in Florida, an arrangement which was followed up on as he hit every other day with the reigning Wimbledon singles champion at Aorangi Park at the very peak of his SW19 madness. Just for good record, an inspired McHugh went as far at Junior Wimbledon as Murray ever managed.

“I genuinely had no idea it was going to happen,” said McHugh of his unlikely head-to-head with the greatest player in the history of the sport. “I mean, Andy was giving me a few looks during the match, because I was sitting in the corner with Jamie.

Loading article content

“He was making funny faces and stuff. But it is not as if he said to me before the match. And even when he came walking over to me, I still thought he was just cracking a joke.

“But then he came right over to me and MADE me go out - I was still in my casual clothes, the tightest jeans and jacket I could possibly have worn,” he added. “I guess I had a 100% return ratio so pretty good stats on that. On the backhand, while I don’t like making excuses, the jacket definitely hindered my performance!

“The whole thing was pretty cool, pretty nice. Because I have the one hander [backhand, like Federer] I have watched him loads and still do obviously. He is definitely one that I have tried to copy from a young age. And that was the first time I had ever met him, before the event. To do it at home at the Hydro, 15 minutes from my house, it was obviously pretty cool.

“It would have been even nicer to have won one of those points, that would have gone viral for sure! But we were in the upstairs bit afterwards and Roger was saying thank you to everyone because he had to shoot off to get straight down to the o2. So I just joked with him and told him I would get him next time for sure. He was really nice about it. He just laughed and said ‘see you later buddy’. That was it.”

What makes the youngster’s breakthrough year even more remarkable is the fact McHugh’s examinations have come in the classroom as well as on court. With another visit to Miami with the Murrays scheduled for the next few weeks, it seems almost like a detail that this pupil of St Aloysius College in Glasgow also managed to achieve four A grades and a B in his Highers. Options for an alternative career – who knows perhaps medicine like his father Chris and mother Heather – can now be parked to concentrate all energies on committing himself to a career as a tennis professional on the tour.

It would, of course, be wise to forget all about this ‘next Andy Murray’ stuff. That is an unfair to label on any player, particularly one like McHugh - who is comfortably under 6ft - but the 17-year-old does not lack for ambition and it helps to have such tennis royalty on your side. Since this summer McHugh also has Toby Smith, Davis Cup captain Leon’s brother, as a full-time coach, and is one of the star turns of an elite group of British juniors which also includes Roger Draper’s son Jack and George Loffhagen. Who knows where it will eventually end up but for now, his men’s ranking, compiled on the strength of one senior win at a Futures event in Glasgow, is only sufficient for 1867th.

“I am finished with school now so I can get the tennis in again next year,” said McHugh. “I still have another year in the junior slams but I have to compare myself to the best in my age,” he added. “There are not loads of them but the best in my age are breaking through, although they are obviously much bigger. [Denis] Shapovalov is only one year above me at 18 and the other Canadian guy Felix Auger-Aliassime is actually younger than me and just outside the top 100 [159]. Those are the guys I am trying to keep up with but it is tough. Next year I will hope to play the Grand Slam juniors, and try to do well in these Futures weeks to get my men’s ranking up.”

As it happens McHugh is in Yucatan, Mexico, right now, putting together another storming run to the semi-finals at least of a junior event. Unlike SW19, where he wilted in the heat and vomited three times on court during a match, he has been sure to wear a cap and apply sunscreen. “I’m not making that mistake again!” he said.