Connor Thomson is a 21-year-old tennis player from Glasgow, Scotland. He reached a career-high junior ITF ranking of 110 and played in the Junior Australian Open and Wimbledon. He is currently playing in his 4th year at the University of South Carolina and recently just won the ITA All-American Doubles Championship with his partner Toby Samuel on October 9th, 2022. He plans to play his 5th-year and go professional after that.
- Can you describe your childhood? How was tennis introduced to you? When did you start taking it seriously?
I come from a soccer family. My dad is a coach and my brother and uncle played professionally. We moved a lot because of his coaching career. When we moved to Glasgow we looked at sports clubs nearby and we noticed a tennis club when I was 8 or 9 and tried it out. I have been hooked since. Recreationally tennis is popular in Scotland, but once you get better there is less competition and there are not many quality training facilities.
- I understand soccer is big in your family, did your dad ever want you to play soccer instead of tennis?
Not really, sports are very important for kids when growing up. They always pushed me to play sports but did not care what sport. Once I got into tennis they were 100% bought in. They were able to help me grow from a professional standpoint as well.
- When did you decide you wanted to play tennis in the U.S?
I didn’t make that decision till slightly later. Once I progressed from the national level events to the ITFs I started to think about it. My goal was to play tennis professionally and had to figure out how to do that. I knew a few guys like Paul Jubb who were doing amazing in college and that helped me make my mind up.
- What led you to commit to South Carolina? Did your recruiting process go smoothly?
Josh Goffi came out to the grass court tournaments and we talked and organized an official visit. When I went I fell in love with the place right away and it helped that I knew guys on the team. I fell in love with the school, the city, and the people. The coaches are amazing as well. I ended up committing when I got back home. I canceled all of the other visits I had.
- What was the biggest challenge you had to deal with when you got to college? How did you overcome it?
I was brand new coming in and did not feel any pressure in that sense. The hardest thing for me was developing physically to catch up with the competition. When you play at a high college level everyone is strong. On top of that, you have the program expectations to learn and be able to stay focused and positive. After a few months, it became second nature.
- How would you describe the culture of the team?
We are all really close. Having a strong team culture is the most important thing. You cannot be successful if you do not have a strong culture. It is the first step in order to being successful as a team. The coaches work so hard to create an awesome team culture and the players have to buy into that. You will succeed on and off the court if you buy into the culture. When you have older guys on the team and you see them buy into it that helps make it easier.
- What has been your most memorable experience so far in college?
There are a few. Recently Toby and I won the ITA Fall All-American Doubles Championship. From a team perspective, beating Tennessee away last year when they were ranked #1 was amazing. We went down 0-3 quickly and we came back and won 4-3. It felt like we were a part of a movie.
- What does your weekly schedule look like?
We have 20-hour training weeks. We practice Monday through Saturday. We have weightlifting Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Tuesday and Thursday we have bike sessions. If any guys are battling injury they go to the training room to work on injury prevention as well. Guys who do not have classes in the morning tend to schedule some individual sessions then.
- How’s the fan base? Do a lot come out to watch matches?
When I first got to South Carolina we did not have many crowds come out to matches. We were ranked 25 but were not an exceptional team. As the team has progressed and I have gotten older I have come to appreciate the fans more and thrive off of that. We have 200-300 fans coming out now. The alumni are super supportive as well! There have been plenty of times when we have played tight matches and the fans have helped us ramp up our level.
- How important is the doubles point in college tennis? Why do you think it is important?
It is the first thing that an opposition sees. You have to be electric, energized and have a purpose out there. You have to set the tone. If you go out there and have a slow start against a good team they just have to go out there and win 50% of the singles matches. It is tough to come back when losing the doubles point. We struggled with that my first year but have put a lot of work into practicing that. The odds of winning go up so much when you win the doubles point. That’s what led us to be a top 10-team last year. The matches we lost last year 2-4, or 3-4 came down to the doubles point. You want the crowd to know that you are ready for this match, and that gets them so much more hype for that match.
- Do you have any personal goals for this upcoming spring season?
The reality is that you have to take everything day by day. It has helped me succeed massively. I want to focus on what I have to do on that day to succeed. Everyone wants to win NCAAs.
- Do you plan on playing 5 years of college tennis?
Absolutely. I want to use my 5th year to prepare for the professional tour.
- If you could give one piece of advice to an international student looking to play college tennis in the U.S what would it be?
Buy into the process of becoming a better person. Better yourself in areas outside of the court and that will translate onto the court. For me, it was maturing and doing little things like making my bed and keeping my apartment clean. Recognizing how you treat things is an extension of how you are as a person. Understanding that led to me being more mature on the court and having more success.