Who knows what Oliver Golding might achieve when he is feeling better. The 17-year-old from Richmond upon Thames won the US Open boys' title here on Sunday night despite feeling exhausted after playing eight matches in four days, suffering from a virus that almost made him pull out of his first-round match and being in the middle of a 12-week course of major dental surgery.
Before he flew to north America last month Golding was unable to eat solids for a fortnight because his mouth was wired up and while he was playing at the Canadian Open in the build-up to Flushing Meadows he had to go to hospital after his tongue got caught in the plate he has in the roof of his mouth.
"A lot of people have questioned Oliver's fitness, but I think he's shown over the last week how strong he is," Golding's mother, Sandra, said yesterday. "He had a very difficult draw and he did so well to come through it."
Golding, who won the title by beating the Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely, the top seed, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in the final, has not had the easiest of years. Gustavo Perino, who had been his coach, was killed in a car crash during Wimbledon, while the teenager's trial period at the Galo Blanco academy in Spain did not go as well as he had hoped.
After Wimbledon, another Argentinian coach, Horacio Rearte, who has an academy in Florida, came to London to work with Golding on a trial basis. It went so well for both sides that they have made the arrangement permanent.
Sandra, who is also a coach, said: "I watched Horacio working with Oliver for a month and I was very impressed. I think it helps that he is also a parent. He knows how to handle young people."
Rearte, who used to work with Luxembourg's Gilles Muller, said: "Oliver's a very smart kid. He showed a lot of nerves in the past, but he has been learning to handle that. He has a great serve and a great forehand, but his game is still developing. He's proved here that he has the nerve and the game to be successful. He does need to improve his fitness, but he's only 17 and we're not going to push him too hard. We know he's growing and we know it's important for him not to get injured."
Golding, who will be 18 in a fortnight's time, had planned to make this his last junior tournament, but he may play in more with the goal of finishing his last year as a junior as world No 1. He arrived at the US Open as world No 12.
He has already played in several senior events and his next appearance will be at a Futures tournament in Sweden next week. "You've got to be a lot more disciplined and focused within the matches," Golding said of his early taste of matches against senior players. "You can't give away anything, otherwise your opponent grabs it with both hands, whereas in juniors you can afford to play a couple of loose games sometimes."
Golding is the first British boy to win a Grand Slam title since Andy Murray triumphed here seven years ago. The list of former US Open junior champions includes Andy Roddick, David Nalbandian, Stefan Edberg and Pat Cash, though the examples of some other recent winners, such as Brian Dunn (1992), Daniel Elsner (1996) and Dusan Lojda (2006), show that victory is not an automatic passport to fame and fortune. Golding is an exceptional talent, but the bookmakers who yesterday offered odds of 6-1 against him winning a Grand Slam title within the next 11 years were not exactly being generous.