Murray can become the next 'British sporting hero'

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The Independent Online

Andy Murray has eight-figure earning potential provided he lives up to his early promise on the court. That is the view of the leading sports agent Jon Smith, who sees nothing to stop the 18-year-old from being a huge success - and reaping the commercial rewards which go with it.

"He has the potential to be a huge star," said Smith, chief executive of First Artist sports management company.

"He will go deep, deep into seven figures and ultimately eight figures if he does well and starts winning Grand Slams."

Murray saw off the No 14 seed, Radek Stepanek, in three sets in the second round in only his sixth senior tour match and took Argentina's David Nalbandian - a Wimbledon finalist in 2002 - to five sets in a thrilling match on Saturday, and Smith believes the signs look very good for a long and successful career.

"It is a sport that we should do so much better in because we kind of started it and I think we're crying out for a British sporting hero," Smith said.

"I think the last one we had was the England rugby union team who won the 2003 World Cup and they seemed to disappear after that, no one came out and flew the flag."

Smith insists it is important Murray's profile and commercial commitments do not grow too fast for his own good.

"He needs to be prepared for what could be coming but he needs to be nurtured too and not commercially over-exposed," Smith added.

"I don't think he should go for any more than two or three blue-chip sponsors.

"He shouldn't be too spread around and be thrown out there too much now. He's only 18 and he has got plenty of time.

"Something like a family blue-chip would be ideal for him, a Coke or a Pepsi or something like that. He needs that kind of global, iconic sponsor."

Mark Petchey expects a decision to be made "by the end of the week" on whether he becomes full-time coach to Murray.

Petchey has been coaching the Scot on a part-time basis recently but is contracted to Sky and is the Lawn Tennis Association's men's national training manager. However it looks like a solution could be forthcoming.

"If it does happen Andy and I and his management people need to sit down and talk," Petchey said. "I have various commitments with Sky and my family and they need to be fitted into the right picture for Andy Murray.

Petchey added: "We will see how it goes - [a decision] should be made by the end of the week. Everything in good time."

Murray's fitness appeared to let him down after he raced into a two-set lead against Nalbandian and Petchey was keen to stress that the 18-year-old had endured a difficult year with injuries leading up to Wimbledon. He said: "Andy had a serious knee injury last year. He had a split in his kneecap - something he was born with - and it kept him off the tour for six months.

"He had to take it carefully in terms of running and managing his condition. We saw at Queen's and Wimbledon the physical demands of the game.

"I think it will take another couple of years for him to be fully fit. You have to manage the body if it is still growing and the signs are Andy is still growing. Because of that it is difficult to hit the weights hard. You do things that have less impact on the knee.

"We do not need to panic about his fitness. He will get there. If you have what Andy has - mental toughness and the tennis ability - you will be fine. He has been let down by his fitness a bit but it can be put right easily."

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