If we look back into the archive of Junior events in 2011, you might remember that British tennis had a bit of a purple patch in the boys’ singles. Across the four Grand Slams, Britain claimed six of the 32 quarter final slots available – that’s an impressive 18.75% – yet when you look at the names, you might be forgiven if you don’t recognise the names.
Amongst the players to achieve impressive results was Kyle Edmund, who we all know has broken through and cemented himself as a real competitor on the ATP tour. But it’s the other three players who have been almost forgotten that made the really impressive runs six years ago and show that the transition from junior tennis into professional is much harder than it may seem.
George Morgan, Liam Broady and Oli Golding all performed exceptionally in the junior slams back in 2011. Morgan reached the semi finals of the Australian and US Open, Broady was a runner-up at Wimbledon and Golding took the crown in New York, signalling an exciting era for British men’s tennis.
But with all three of these players, translating this early success into a prolonged career is proving to be difficult.
Forgotten men of British tennis
George Morgan, whose consistency was arguably the most impressive out of this particular group of juniors, decided to quit the game and take up coaching. In an article with The Telegraph back in 2014, he commented that “you will have to be loaded” to play tennis. Morgan had one ITF title to his name in 2011 before calling it quits. The difficulties in funding, as outlined by Eden Silva in a recent interview with The Big Racket, meant that it was unsustainable to fund a full-time career in the sport.
2011 US Open Boys’ Singles Champion Oli Golding also found it difficult to perform at the highest level. Like Morgan, Golding quit the sport in 2014 to take up a role in coaching, and his ‘retirement’ from the sport came as a result of a drop in funding and closure of the National Tennis Centre. Golding suggested that the expectation heaped onto players meant it created an issue for the youngsters when they’re not necessarily ready for it. Finding it difficult to find training facilities that were capable to take him to the next level, Golding became disillusioned with the game.
The final player of this generation – Liam Broady – is the only one of the three to not retire. However, he too has found it difficult to break into the world’s elite. A victory on his Wimbledon debut, over Marinko Matosevic was followed by a disappointing drop in form. Coupled with injuries, Broady’s ranking fell outside the top 300, and it looked like he was going to follow the likes of Morgan and Golding in not realising his potential.
Is the tide turning?
However, for Broady and Golding, recent form suggests that the tide could be about to turn for this generation of young players.
Broady has been in excellent form recently, having reached the ATP Challenger final in Aptos and quarter finals in Vancouver. But its his form in Russia which has really caught the attention. In the ATP 250 event in St. Petersburg, Broady came through two rounds of qualifying (where he defeated top seed Radu Albot) to make the main draw. He progressed through to the quarter finals – winning back-to-back ATP tour matches for the first time – with an impressive 6-3 6-0 win over Ernests Gulbis in round one, and seeing off fourth seed and the world number 31 Adrian Mannarino in the second round.
This run of form will propel Broady to be on the brink of re-entering the top 200 and, more significantly, gives the Mancunian the opportunity to enter qualifying for the Grand Slam events.
And then there’s the revitalised Oli Golding who has returned to the ITF tour with very encouraging results this year. Golding came through qualifying to win an ITF Futures event in Italy in August, and came through similar circumstances before losing in an ITF Futures final in Nottingham against Lloyd Glasspool. This run of form saw Golding win 13 consecutive wins and return to the top 750.
Golding’s return could be a short-lived, but he has clearly shown the potential and ability to make a serious comeback and claim a place inside the world’s elite – and boy how British tennis needs some positive news.
With Andy Murray’s hip causing serious concern and Dan Evans’ drugs ban, British tennis could be about to hit a lull on the men’s side. A tough Davis Cup draw away at Spain could mean an early exit and potentially dampen the spirit and following of men’s tennis in the country. However, with this batch of youngsters – remember they’re still only 23 – the future may still be bright for British tennis fans. Johanna Konta broke through the WTA at a similar age and her story of lingering outside the top 125 will give the likes of Broady hope. Maybe it’s not too late for Broady and Golding to really make their mark and maintain the glory of British tennis Murray has truly spoilt the nation with.