Liam Broady prepares to swap juniors for life on ATP tour
Liam Broady is about to leave the world of junior tennis behind and try to make his way with the big boys.
The 18-year-old might have practised with Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal, but now he is preparing to take the first steps on the way to meeting them for real.
Before that comes the challenge of trying to earn a living in the unforgiving lower echelons of men's tennis, where being a former junior world number two, Grand Slam singles finalist and Australian Open doubles champion won't mean a thing.
Broady's 2014 target
"Over the last couple of weeks I've been talking to my coach about what I want out of next year, not just rankings-wise but process-wise as well. I think that's one that's in the mixer - it's up in the air - but I'd like to be top 400 and then push on the next year. But I guess we'll have to see."
"I'm looking forward to completely focusing on men's tennis," Broady told BBC Sport.
"It's been a tough last year just trying to juggle the juniors and the men's at the same time, and having to focus on two rankings and two different sets of tours.
"I'm really looking forward to solely focusing on the men's tennis and trying to do some damage."
The phrase "transition from juniors to seniors" has become wearily familiar to tennis followers in Britain as decades have passed, and regimes have come and gone, with success stories thin on the ground.
Broady is among the next wave of British hopefuls based at the LTA's National Tennis Centre, a facility that divided opinion when it was opened at an estimated cost of £39m in 2007, with some saying the money would have been better spent on investing in more indoor courts around the UK.
The flip side to that argument is that, five years on, the likes of Broady have world-class facilities at their disposal.
Top teenagers on tour
- Guilherme Clezar, Brazil (ranked 235): The top teenager for now but turns 20 on New Year's Eve. He won two senior Futures titles in Brazil this year.
- Jiri Vesely, Czech Republic (ranked 263, pictured): Vesely, 19, lost to GB's Oli Golding in the 2011 US Open junior final after winning the Australian Open. The Czech made a big move in 2012 with five Futures.
- Taro Daniel, Japan (ranked 283): Born in New York and based in Valencia, the 19-year-old won two Futures titles in 2012.
- Dominic Thiem, Austria (ranked 310): Former junior world number two, the 19-year-old moved up over 300 places this year.
Broady himself has taken a circuitous route from his home in Stockport to Roehampton, a dispute between his father and the LTA leaving him outside the national system until this year when, having turned 18, he took matters into his own hands and headed south.
"Obviously it was a massive decision," said Broady.
"I really changed my lifestyle and I think it's only come out with positives. I can't think of any negatives. Obviously the facilities here, the coaches, the resources, everything is just top notch. And living down south - well, Manchester's always been home and it always will be.
"I think I'll always want to go back and stay there but for now I'm used to staying down here and I've got no complaints really."
He did manage a recent return north to watch Ricky Hatton fight but opportunities to see his beloved Manchester City and favourite player Mario Balotelli - "not from the mental side but from the flair side" - are increasingly rare.
However, Broady is convinced that living and training with a group of promising young compatriots that includes the likes of Kyle Edmund, Luke Bambridge and Oli Golding will make him a better player.
Edmund, a year younger than Broady, won his first senior title in the US last month and the pair will head back to Florida in the new year to the same clay courts, looking for similar success.
"In a group of teenage boys there are going to be arguments and there are going to be disagreements, especially when we're all very competitive, but I think we all get on great and are really pushing each other on," said Broady.
"I made the finals of the US [juniors], Kyle then went on to win a big tournament, the next week I made semis, then Kyle made finals, then the week after that Luke made semis. The proof is in the pudding, you know. I really do believe in that."
Broady has spent the final weeks of the year doing the kind of training block demanded of a senior professional, while making adjustments to his game.
"I'd say my forehand and my groundstrokes in general are the best aspects of my game. Maybe the serve, which is what I've been working on for a couple of months, is the one that needs the most work done on it," he said.
"I haven't changed so much in the actual game - I've been playing well in men's tennis for two years now. It's more about the mentality and believing you can stay in with these guys."
With no teenagers in the world's top 200, it is likely that Broady - ranked 879th - will require years rather than months if he is to make an impact at the top of the game, but he sees that as an advantage.
"It's almost a lot easier now knowing that I've actually got quite a few years to break into the top 100," he said. "You realise that you've got quite a bit of time and it takes a lot of pressure off.
"To be honest, there wouldn't have been much pressure on me anyway because I believe that if I keep working hard and keep on doing the right things, then I'll get there in the end anyway."
For now, Broady must wrestle with the tennis player's perennial problem of packing, the eight bags of luggage he has accumulated in moving from Stockport to London an indication of how life has altered dramatically for him in 2012.
"Looking back from the start of this year I think there's been a massive change," he said.
"To be honest, I can't remember who I was back then."