Emma Raducanu ‘uses crowd like Andy Murray’ as British teen star thrives at Wimbledon

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Emma Raducanu ‘uses crowd like Andy Murray’ as British teen star thrives at Wimbledon
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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Britain has long had a propensity to overhype its future sporting stars and it is a sensation felt perhaps more acutely at Wimbledon than other sporting playing fields.

The next big things have readily come and gone on the grass, and Emma Raducanu is feeling the latest amplification of her performances after three wins in the opening week. At the age of 18, she is the unlikely candidate to be the last Briton standing in the singles draw in week two.

Wins one and two out on Court 18, a court where she had enjoyed a some success at junior Wimbledon, were eye-catching, but her victory over Sorana Cirstea on Court No1 gave the indication she might be more primed for the big stage than some of her previously bigged-up predecessors.

Matt James has been her hitting partner for much of Wimbledon so far, as well as her coach for two years from the age of 15 and now a back-up for her current coach Nigel Sears, who only fanned the flames of expectation by suggesting of his charge “the sky’s the limit”.

It is perhaps apt that James and Raducanu first met at Wimbledon of all places, and telling that her talent alone was enough to relocate him from a job he enjoyed in Somerset to working at the LTA in Roehampton.

Of her run to date, he said: “In terms of the tennis, I’m not surprised as I know the tennis is there. That she played at an extremely high level didn’t surprise me that much.

“It was how she handled that first time on Court 1 with thousands of people completely on her side. She reeled off eight games in a row and she’s so aggressive when she gets rolling but the girl came back and she was in a dog fight. The way she got through and didn’t back down surprised me.

“Her opponent was still playing pretty well and she got over the line by using the crowd like Andy Murray does. That part, when you’ve not been in that situation before, that was the biggest thing.”

In James’ eyes, much of the credit goes to mum Renee and dad Ian. As a child, she was thrown into everything imaginable on the sporting side – perhaps most notably a stint as a go-karter – as well as tap dancing and ballet, all the while encouraged to excel in the classroom.

Their message has been to both keep improving while also keeping her feet on the ground. As a result, she seeks out players and coaches to eke out any little nugget of information – as she did in practising with former Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard was full of praise for the British teen.

“She’s really good at asking questions so it’s not surprising that she’s so good academically,” added James. “And she picks up things so quickly and I think that’s because of the skillset she’s picked up from such diverse sports.”

But James is quick to point out he is just a cog in helping to shape her career, with a litany of people at the LTA having played a role to date in her pathway through the scholarship programme.

For all the help, Raducanu has shone from an early age. She won a junior ITF event a week after turning 13 – the youngest age you can enter such events. At 15, she was ranked in the top 20 in the world after just six tournaments, compared to the average of 20 tournaments among her peers. Only now with her A-levels over has she been able to focus on the tennis.

“What’s exciting is that her career only started four weeks ago in Nottingham,” said James. “Obviously, there’s been extremely talented players in the past. Whether she’s different, time will tell. There’s still a long way to go and she needs to keep riding it.”

The serve needs to get a few miles-an-hour quicker plus she needs to get physically stronger, neither facet particularly surprising at her age.

As for what’s possible in week two of Wimbledon, James said: “She goes into every match knowing that, if she plays her best tennis, not many people can beat her. It’s going to take someone to play a really good level to take her down.”

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