British junior sent home in disgrace as LTA maintains hard line

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The Independent Online

It took until day seven of the Australian Open but a Briton finally entered the winners' enclosure at Melbourne Park yesterday. However, Jamie Murray's first-round mixed doubles victory in partnership with America's Liezel Huber also came on a day when one of the Lawn Tennis Association's most promising juniors was sent home in disgrace.

Marcus Willis had been due to play his first match as No 16 seed in the boys' singles but instead found himself on a plane back to Britain after the LTA, which was paying his way, pulled him out for disciplinary reasons. It was Willis's first trip to an overseas Grand Slam tournament.

The 17-year-old from Berkshire, who had been with the British party here for the last fortnight, was given a final warning last week for bad behaviour, but continued to infuriate LTA staff with his lackadaisical attitude. The final straw came on Saturday, when he missed the bus to a practice session and then arrived without his rackets, having left them at his hotel.

Roger Draper, the LTA's chief executive, has been taking a tough line on misbehaving British juniors. David Rice and Naomi Broady were suspended last summer for "unprofessional behaviour" after publicising a lifestyle of drinking and eating junk food on a social networking website. A number of other British juniors were warned about their future conduct.

Draper told the BBC that he hoped Willis would learn from his punishment. "We actually wrote to him last week explaining that he was in the last chance saloon," Draper said. "A few things have happened in the last few days which have led to him being sent home.

"We said last year we were going to get a lot tougher and hopefully Marcus will come back a better player and wiser as a result of this. It's just frustrating because he's a really talented player, but hopefully these players will learn from their mistakes and realise that they're blowing their chances.

"We're trying to change the culture amongst the junior players. Coming to the Slams just reinforces it. You see the Slovaks and the Croats and the Serbs and they work hard and have the right attitude. You don't see them missing training and leaving their rackets at the hotel. We're trying to explain to all these players that they're role models to the 13 and 14-year-olds."

Jamie Murray, who lost his opening match in the men's doubles alongside Max Mirnyi, partnered Huber to a 7-5, 7-6 victory over Anabel Medina Garrigues and Martin Garcia. "It was just good to get back on the court and try to get a bit of confidence back," Murray said.