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Judy Murray: don't mollycoddle Britain's tennis talent

The blueprint for nurturing Britain's top tennis talent may be changing, but Judy Murray believes the stars of tomorrow must not be wrapped in cotton wool.

New boss Michael Downey is determined to streamline the number of talented youngsters the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) guides through the junior ranks.

Chief executive Downey believes greater focus on fewer juniors will in time boost Britain's number of top-level tennis stars.

Whatever the boardroom strategy, Britain's Fed Cup coach Murray is adamant increased focus must never lead to cosseting.

Wimbledon champion Andy Murray sought school in Spain at 15 in his bid to hit the big time in tennis.

His mother said however much help the system can hand promising youngsters, there is no substitute for going it alone.

Judy Murray said adapting to a life on the road is just one of many ways to build the mental fortitude vital for any tennis champion.

"We don't have so many juniors who are world class, but it's about helping them to learn the demands without handing everything to them on a plate," Murray told Press Association Sport.

"And that's because resilience and mental toughness at the top of the game is probably the determining factor of who actually gets to the very top.

"It's not a perfect world in top sport, you've got to be able to react, think on your feet, solve your own problems, and react when things aren't going your way.

"So we have to create environments for kids to develop those qualities."

Murray wants to see more girls aged five to eight taking up tennis, and is even developing her own tailored programme to that end.

Downey is busy examining the elite-level programmes in a bid to boost Britain's overall success in the sport.

Murray applauded the audit, but admitted no amount of coaches or support can teach a youngster the mindset of a winner.

"If they are good enough, it's about doing the right things at the right time," she said.

"But it's also about learning different things at different stages of development, but you will get to the stage where you need to learn how to work hard.

"You don't need to learn that when you're 11 or 12 because you can't concentrate for too long, but you certainly need to learn the demands of the sport.

"When kids are 15 or 16 and seriously considering the sport as a professional career, then they need to know the demands of not just the game but the business of being a tennis player.

"Budgeting, how to book hotels and change them at short notice, how to do their own accounts, they need to know how to handle the media and sponsors.

"Then there's the whole drug testing thing, there's so many different aspects to learn of the business.

"But if they're good enough it's about creating the right opportunities at the right time."

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