British prospect thrilled to help with 'chilled' Federer's warm-up

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The Independent Online

It has been quite a two months for George Morgan. Six weeks ago, the 17-year-old from Bolton won the 18-and-under singles title at the Orange Bowl in Miami, the unofficial junior world championships. Last week, he was hitting here with Roger Federer and Andy Murray and yesterday won his first round match at the Australian Open junior tournament, beating Brazil's Thiago Moura Monteiro 7-6, 6-4.

Morgan is one of the British game's brightest prospects. Three years ago, he won the 14-and-under title in Miami and in winning there last month he joined a list of champions that includes Federer, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl.

The opportunity to hit with Federer came through the world No 2's coach, Paul Annacone, who worked for the Lawn Tennis Association until last summer. "It's been unbelievable," Morgan said. "I hit with Federer and Murray on the same day. I hit with Federer twice. Once was for an hour and once was 20 minutes before his match and Murray the same. First time we played, we played a few points, just hitting the other time.

"I can't really explain what it was like hitting with Federer. It's just so easy for him. He said afterwards that I was a talented boy. He didn't know how I compete because he hadn't seen me play a match, but he just said to keep working hard and keep doing what I'm doing.

"I probably learned more from Andy. He's more intense and, being British, he inspires me a lot. Federer's probably more relaxed, more chilled. I think he's almost too talented for me to learn from, but he's a really nice guy. I felt it helped me a lot today because the tempo and the way the two of them hit is just fast, so when I go and play juniors it feels quite slow."

Morgan, who names James Blake and Marat Safin as his role models, will be 18 next month and has been based at the National Tennis Centre at Roehampton since he was 14. When he is in Britain he returns home at weekends.

"I am used to it now but at the start it was quite tough," he said. "I don't really miss Mum and Dad nagging me at home. I phone them pretty much every day."

While some British juniors have shown less than total dedication in the past, drinking and staying out late, Morgan says he is focused on his tennis. "I sacrifice all those things," he said. "I can't do that. Firstly I haven't got time and secondly I can't afford it. If I go out drinking I'd be gone for the next day of training, so I can't do that. I love training. I get on with everyone at the NTC. We're all good mates. We go to the cinema and stuff so I've still got a social life with them."

The LTA has provided financial support for Morgan, who has also attracted the interest of sponsors since his Miami success. After the Australian Open he will have a week at home and then fly to Turkey to play in two tournaments on the Futures tour.

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