Judy Murray has revealed that sending her son Jamie for tennis training in England too young may have ruined his chances of becoming a top singles player.
She said not keeping the 12-year-old home when the plans changed was “probably my biggest mistake” and “one of the most heart-breaking experiences of my life”.
Murray said Jamie had been keen to go south, but his intended training centre in Berkshire then closed and he went to one in Cambridge instead, where she didn’t like the tuition.
Writing in her autobiography, Knowing The Score: My Family and Our Tennis Story, which is published on Thursday, she said: “I can’t believe I made such a big mistake.
“I will never know where the line between confidence and skill lies – what lasting damage was done to Jamie’s game by that experience. What I do know is that he left for Cambridge a confident, competitive singles player – ranked in the top three in Europe for under 12s along with Rafael Nadal and Richard Gasquet. He returned with shattered confidence, now only at his best with someone alongside him on court.
“Are those things connected? How can I ever have a definitive answer to that? It was too much for him, too young.”
Murray said Jamie – now ranked eighth in the world for doubles – was “still very much a child at just 12” when he was talent-spotted by Pat Cash’s coach Ian Barclay to train at the Lawn Tennis Association’s centre at Bisham Abbey.
She said her son had been “desperate to go” and “packed his bags months in advance”.
However, before he started, the centre closed and he was transferred to another in Cambridge, which meant going to a different school to fellow tennis players.
Murray said: “I didn’t have the heart to hold him back. And that was probably my biggest mistake.
“While the school was fantastic, the tennis was not.
“The coach made changes to Jamie’s forehand in the first couple of weeks. Anybody who knows the first thing about kids can tell you that if you take them away from family and friends, the last thing you do is mess with their skills in the early stages of that emotional transition.
“Jamie was selected for the programme because he was talented, then spent the first couple of weeks being made to feel he wasn’t that great.”
Jamie kept telling the family he didn’t want to come home.
However, Murray said he got upset when due to return to Cambridge from a French tournament and she told him: “You’re coming back with me”.
She said: “He just said one word: ‘OK’. And that was it.”