LTA suspends two junior players

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The Lawn Tennis Association have suspended two of Britain's top junior players after their 'unprofessional' lifestyles were exposed.

David Rice and Naomi Broady had their funding withdrawn for a "lack of discipline", with the pair deemed to have breached contracts requiring them to act professionally at all times.

The LTA decided to act after being alerted to photographs and confessions on the Bebo social networking website.

Rice, the second-best British junior, and Broady, the national under-18 champion, were among several players to be warned about their future conduct.

In the pictures, one British junior is shown slumped on a hotel bed surrounded by empty pizza boxes.

The caption is "fatty" and someone posted the comment "I thought you were meant to be an athlete". Another photo is of one of the juniors standing in the street holding an empty bottle, with the caption: "me drunk for a change".

Virtually all the players left their pages unlocked, meaning anybody could view them.

They were finally locked last night following calls from furious officials at the LTA, who have not officially confirmed which players have been suspended.

With British tennis desperate for fresh blood following Tim Henman's retirement, the suggestion the next generation may lack the necessary commitment is a serious cause of concern.

LTA chief Roger Draper told Radio Five Live: "The people they're letting down the most is themselves."

He added: "They've either got to behave like professional athletes or go and do something else. It's about taking responsibility, being accountable and sorting their lives out.

"What disappoints me more than anything else is while these people are saying they want to be professional tennis players and want all the trappings that come with that, they aren't behaving in that way.

"We've got to deal with it behind closed doors and there's a big education job to be done with these players. I don't think sometimes they realise the opportunities they've been given."

British number one Andy Murray added: "At a certain age, everyone goes through a phase like this. I made some mistakes when I was 16 or 17 in Barcelona but now I don't go out, I don't drink, I don't smoke and none of the top players do.

"It's just something as a professional athlete you have to realise, it's one of the sacrifices you have to make; you're not at university, not doing a nine to five job, you have to stay in tip-top shape.

"Being professional is the main thing that you need to get right if you want to become a great athlete. If you don't have that then you're never going to make it."