Following her triumph at the US Open, Emma Raducanu credited the retired British tennis player Tim Henman for giving her “belief that I could actually do it”.
Henman, who has been working for Amazon Prime in the US, has often been seen offering words of comfort and support to the 18-year-old.
“It means so much to have Virginia [Wade, former British pro] here and also Tim,” Raducanu said before being handed the trophy yesterday by the American former world No 1 Billie Jean King.
“Just to have such British legends and icons for me to follow in their footsteps, it definitely helps and gave me the belief that I could actually do it,” she said.
Her parents, Ian and Renee, were unable to be present in New York, due to Covid-19 rules that require a special exemption visa.
However, Raducanu has had support from a trusted team, including her coach for the weeks running up to the US Open, Andrew Richardson, a close friend of Henman’s who was best man at his wedding to Lucy Heald in 1999.
Richardson, whom Raducanu describes as “a very calming character”, was brought in after Raducanu faced criticism earlier this year when she withdrew from Wimbledon with breathing difficulties, ceding the match to her Australian opponent Ajla Tomljanovic.
“I was playing the best tennis of my life in front of an amazing crowd this week and I think the whole experience caught up with me,” she said at the time.
Though he never reached a grand slam final during his own tennis career, Henman, 47, knows a thing or two about pressure, having been the UK No 1 throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s.
After beating Maria Sakkari in the semi-final, Raducanu said: “Tim is honestly such a big inspiration. He has been helping me to treat one point at a time.
“You can’t get ahead of yourself and just stay present. Today I wasn’t thinking about anyone else except for myself.”