Britain’s newest tennis queen, Emma Raducanu, traded forehands and compliments with actual royalty when she was welcomed back to the UK by the Duchess of Cambridge at a special homecoming event in Roehampton, London.
Kate, the patron of the Lawn Tennis Association, shared a court with Raducanu as they played a series of friendly doubles matches at the National Tennis Centre to celebrate her shock US Open victory. The event also paid tribute to the US Open wheelchair doubles champions, Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid, and the men’s doubles champion, Joe Salisbury,
When asked if she were more nervous playing the duchess or Leylah Fernandez, her opponent in the final in New York, Raducanu smiled and said: “I was actually very nervous playing the duchess. I was like: ‘Don’t miss, don’t miss’!”
Raducanu said she had discussed her victory with the duchess and what it meant for the country. “She was very supportive, and it was great to play tennis with her … She has a great game and actually an incredible forehand.”
Raducanu, who two weeks’ ago became the first British woman to win a grand slam single’s title since 1977, then showed her ruthless side by revealing she had dispensed with the coach who had worked with her for the US Open.
She explained the decision to leave Andrew Richardson, who took over after she reached the fourth round of Wimbledon, was down to the need to find a coach with high-level experience on the women’s tour to help her compete with the very best.
“The players at the top are serious competition and serious players so I feel like I really need someone who has been through that and can really guide me along the way, because I’m still very very new to everything,” she said.
Raducanu, whose journey from 400-1 qualifier to grand slam champion charmed the world, said she had watched her final victory on a few occasions but it had still not completely hit home.
“The first time I watched it back, I actually skipped all the bad bits,” she said, laughing. “I just wanted to see what was going on from a spectator’s point of view. It was really cool to watch and it helped the victories sink in a bit more.”
Raducanu has since rubbed shoulders with A-list stars at the Met Gala, agreed a sponsorship deal with Tiffany, and made a glamorous appearance at London fashion week. But she said her favourite moment of the past fortnight was the quiet meal she had shared with her team after her victory.
“I’ve had many cool opportunities but I’d say the nicest moment – and the best moment – was after the final when everyone in the team just had a really nice meal together,” she said. “We spoke until the early hours of the morning, just reflecting on the fortnight and the three weeks that we had.
That was a special moment. It’s the one that really sticks in my head and I’ll probably keep that for ever.”
The 18-year-old also confirmed she would be playing tennis full-time rather than going to university but said she would like to do a degree in economics at some point in the future.
“It was always in my mind after my A-levels that I wanted to give being on tour full-time a shot. So I gave myself one or two years to see how it was going. But now obviously with the run I’ve had, that’s all I want to do. Maybe when things settle down and I’m more adjusted to what’s going on and the schedule, then I might pick something up if I have a lot of spare time. But at the moment, no.”
Raducanu would not be drawn on when she would make her return to competitive tennis but said she was now back in full training with a view to her expected comeback next month.
“Being at home for a few days is really nice, just to spend time with my family. But while all the opportunities I’m getting have been very fun, where I really want to be is on a tennis court because I was just thriving out there.”