Williams sisters’ former coach: I’d like to work with Emma Raducanu

Venus Williams with her coach Rick Macci in 1994
Tennis coach Rick Macci with Venus Williams in 1994 - Getty Images/Al Bello

The esteemed coach who put Serena Williams on the path to greatness wants to help revive Emma Raducanu’s career by making her “bulletproof”.

But Rick Macci also warned that “I don’t know where her head is at,” adding that real progress would require Raducanu to show “hunger and belief”.

Raducanu has not played since April after undergoing double wrist surgery and an ankle operation. Two years after her sensational US Open triumph at the age of 18, she has plummeted to 289th in the world rankings, and remains without a coach following a split with Sebastian Sachs in June.

Sachs was the fifth coach in under two years that Raducanu – who turned 21 this month – has worked with. In a recent interview with the BBC’s Today Programme, she suggested that “they [her coaches] haven’t been able to keep up with the questions I asked”.

Macci – who was memorably portrayed by actor Jon Bernthal in the Oscar-winning movie King Richard – has nurtured the talents of such tennis giants as Serena and Venus Williams, Andy Roddick and Jennifer Capriati. Now the American says he would relish the chance to work with Raducanu.

The Florida-based 68-year-old said: “I spoke to her agent, but he said her parents deal with coaching appointments.

“I’m not a travel coach, people come to me. I can help her mentally and strategically like no other. I don’t know where her head is at, whether there is the hunger and belief there to be the best.

“If you look at Carlos Alcaraz, everything changed for him with success at an early age, but he was ready and loaded. I don’t know Emma or what’s in her head, but you don’t lose talent and ability.

“Yes, you might lose a little confidence and fitness, but technically she’s very good – you don’t win a Grand Slam otherwise. If she really wants to be one of the best in the world – and she has the ability – then you need to cope with the pressure that comes with that.

“She should want pressure. You do all this training to be a professional player and want to be the best in the world. She has to be able to deal with what comes with that. She must be prepared to deal with the media.

“To say she sometimes wishes she didn’t win the US Open because of the mental and physical strain it has brought cuts both ways; If she’s going to listen to every little thing that is said about her then that doesn’t work, you’ve got to be bulletproof and I can help her with that.

“You need an ability to forget just as importantly as the ability to remember and she must learn from the adversity she’s faced.”

Emma Raducanu after winning the US Open - Williams sisters' former coach: I'd like to work with Emma Raducanu
Rick Macci believes he can transform Raducanu's fortunes but wants to see her show mental strength - USA Today/Robert Deutsch

The charismatic Macci believes spending so much time off court can benefit Raducanu in the long run. But there will be no quick fix for a talent who made history at Flushing Meadows by becoming the first player to win a major as a qualifier.

He continued: “It can be good to have time out to reflect, as Naomi Osaka did before she was pregnant after success early in her career. But working on areas such as footwork and technique takes time, building confidence takes time.

“She’s maturing and by having time out she can see who is maturing around her, what she expects of them and what she expects of herself.

“The good thing is she’s very young and this a long-term process, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. I know when you qualify and then win a Grand Slam without losing a set you’ve got something special between the ears – and much of the game is played between the ears.

“She must have a mature mindset and it’s so important to get the right people around her. If she wants to be up there with the best in the world you have to be all in, or you’re going to be out.”

Professional tennis coach Rick Macci appearing on Fox News
Rick Macci believes he his the man to get Emma Raducanu's career back on track - Getty Images/John Lamparski

Macci’s comments come at a time when Raducanu has been gradually building towards a possible playing return in the New Year. Already, though, she has fallen behind her original schedule. A week ago, she withdrew from the MGM Macau Masters – an exhibition event on Dec 2 that she had signed up for in the summer.

It is now three-and-a-half months since Raducanu posted her first on-court video after her surgeries, which showed her gently patting soft red balls back and forth with fellow rehabber Kyle Edmund. Yet sources suggest that she only began serious hitting sessions in October, and is this week using standard yellow balls for the first time.

If the rate of progress has been slower than might have been expected, we can perhaps attribute that to supervision from the Lawn Tennis Association’s physiotherapy department, who will naturally take a safety-first stance with such a high-profile player.

It is also understood that the Raducanu family have looked again at hiring their own training experts. (Will Herbert, the physio at her side during the victorious US Open run, now works with her near contemporary Jack Draper, while experienced fitness trainer Jez Green joined as a consultant just over a year ago but is no longer involved.)

But keeping staff on-board remains an issue, and whispers have emerged of further “artistic differences” with the outside (non-LTA) experts that were consulted. Since that glorious US Open, nothing in the Raducanu story has been straightforward.