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Last Updated: Monday, 13 September, 2004, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Murray looks to bright future
By Tom Fordyce

Can you believe in the future of British tennis after all?

Within hours of Tim Henman's US Open semi-final defeat by Roger Federer on Saturday, 17-year-old Andrew Murray stormed to the junior title with a straight-sets defeat of Ukraine's Sergiy Stakhovsky.

Andrew Murray drinks from a water bottle
17 years old
Started playing tennis aged three
Grew up in Dunblane, Scotland
Son of Scottish national coach Judy Murray
Based at Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona
Breakthrough in 1999, winning U-12s Orange Bowl world championships, Florida
Junior Wimbledon debut in 2002
Picked in Britain's Davis Cup team 2004

Even as the Scot lifted the crystal trophy, the weight of a nation's expectations settled on to his narrow shoulders.

If you want to feed the hype machine, here's some fodder.

Previous winners of the junior men's singles title at the US Open title include Pat Cash, Stefan Edberg, Marcelo Rios and Andy Roddick.

Murray was so in command during the tournament that he dropped just one set all week.

By way of flattering comparison, at the same age as Murray won a junior Grand Slam title, Henman was utterly unknown to the general public.

Henman lost 6-1 6-0 in the first round of Junior Wimbledon and did not make the world's top 250 until after his 21st birthday, yet he has still gone on to reach six Grand Slam semi-finals and rank consistently in the world's top ten.

If Murray is that far ahead at 17 years old, what can he achieve by Henman's age?

Calm it down

Okay. That's the hype done with. Now for the cold water.

Rule number one of British tennis in recent years? Great juniors do not always great seniors make.

Eleven years ago, James Baily won the boy's singles at the Australian Open.

Great things were expected, but Baily, overwhelmed by the pressures of the senior game, gradually lost interest in tennis and slipped out of the sport.

Martin Lee did even better, being ranked number one junior in the world in 1996 and winning the junior doubles title at Wimbledon.

But he too failed to translate that dominance into the senior game, and is now - bedevilled by knee injuries - ranked outside the world's top 600.

Alex Bogdanovic is the latest tyro to struggle, like Murray picked for the Davis Cup team while still in his teens but having been taken off Lawn Tennis Association funding for three months earlier this year because of a perceived lack of ambition and discipline.

So which way will Murray go - up to the heights of Henman, or down to join the pile of nearly men and never-weres?

Praise from above

Well - whisper it quietly, but those around him think he might just have what it takes.

"He's already taking some big strides and that's very important," says Henman.

"We've had plenty of examples of kids that have done well in the juniors but haven't made that transition.

"But not only his game, but between the ears, Andrew knows what he's doing. He works hard and I think that's a good combination."

LTA performance director David Felgate, the man who coached Henman into the world's top 10, is also bullish.

"This achievement is testament to the hard work and determination he has shown all year," says Felgate

"I'm delighted for Andy. He fully deserves his victory following a week of fantastic tennis.

"Andy has a great future ahead of him - starting with our Davis Cup away tie against Austria this month."

Henman, not even the best Briton of his age as a junior, owes much of his late-flowering success to his intense determination to improve, to the hours he spends working on his game.

Andrew Murray lifts the junior US Open trophy
What is encouraging to those who have followed Murray's career to date are the signs of a similar single-mindedness and hard-nosed ambition.

"Doing well at a junior grand slam is a great achievement, but it's not the most important thing," said Murray in the aftermath of his US Open win.

"I want to go on now and achieve other things. The time I had out with knee problems earlier this season has made me a lot stronger mentally, and that's really helping me."

There are other similarities between Murray and Henman, the man 13 years his senior.

Neither man owes all his success to the LTA's coaching schemes. Henman grew up playing tennis on the court in his parent's back garden, and Murray spent much of his teens at the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona, albeit with funding from the LTA.

It echoes the story of 18-year-old Miles Kasiri, who reached the final of the Wimbledon boys' singles this year having been schooled at Nick Bollettieri 's academy in Florida.

Murray is also no shrinking violet and he displayed his self-confidence by choosing to hit out at Wimbledon in the aftermath of his Flushing Meadows success.

"I don't want to get on the wrong side of anyone, but this [the US Open] is the best tournament in the world, no doubt," he said.

"You get treated unbelievably - you stay in a nice hotel and get to eat at the same places as the senior players.

"But at Wimbledon, you get put in the Roehampton Institute, you get shoved away at the back in Aorangi Park and you don't get to see what the top players are like."

What next?

Although Murray could play for another year on the junior circuit, he is now likely to start playing more matches at the lower end of the seniors circuit, aiming to win rankings points in Futures and Challenger tournaments.

On 24 September he travels to Austria with Henman, Bogdanovic and Greg Rusedski for that Davis Cup tie and may even find himself selected to play a singles match.

"I have a chance after this win," he says. "My confidence is pretty high.

"I've won a couple of tournaments on clay already this year, and the other guys haven't played much on clay - but I'll have to see who Jeremy (Bates) decides to pick."

Either way, it is unlikely to be Murray's last chance.

Interview: David Felgate

Murray wins US junior crown
12 Sep 04  |  US Open 2004

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