Virginia Wade has said she is “thrilled” that Emma Raducanu won the US Open on Saturday, displacing her as the most recent British woman to have won a major singles title.
The teenager from Kent took New York by storm as she came from nowhere to win the title, the first qualifier in history to claim a grand slam crown.
Virginia Wade, who was the first British woman to win a major singles title at Wimbledon in 1977, said: “I’m just so thrilled that somebody as good as Emma has come along and taken the world by absolute storm.”
She added that the 18-year-old has got “all the attributes you need to make a champion” and that what happened to Ms Raducanu at Wimbledon was not a “big deal”, referring to her premature exit from her fourth-round match in which she retired because of breathing difficulties.
Ms Wade told BBC Breakfast: “I don’t think anybody thought this would happen quite as dramatically as it has but to be honest I didn’t think that it was a big deal at Wimbledon.
“I think it was fortunate that it was the US Open that she hit her stride in such great form.”
However the former tennis champion, who also won the US Open in 1968 and the Australian Open in 1972, warned that dealing with an increased amount of exposure could be the most difficult change for Ms Raducanu.
Asked how the 18-year-old should handle the new level of fame, Ms Wade said: “That is probably the hardest thing these days, to handle that and so she’s got to have very good advice on that.
“Just not to do too much and not to play too much because you don’t want to play that much when there’s so much expectation on you and then you get stale or you lose your motivation, so that is a balance that’s difficult to get.
“I think for Emma, she needs to understand just how good she really is, but you have to constantly work at that to maintain it, she has to have that self-belief – if you believe that you’re better than the others, you’re going to beat them.”
‘I’ve been courtside cheerleader’
Former British number one Tim Henman has described his role in Ms Raducanu’s US Open success as being “courtside cheerleader”.
He said: “I’ve done very little. I’ve been courtside cheerleader. I think that is about the maximum.
“But I feel very lucky to be part of the (Amazon) Prime team here in New York and therefore I’ve been courtside for every match, the best seat in the house, to see her and the way she has played and this fairytale run.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Tim Henman said the teenager’s US Open win has “changed the landscape” of British sport and world tennis.
He added: “I’ve been around the game long enough to know who’s good, who’s very good, and who could be a flash in the pan, and that could not be further from the truth.
“She’s the real deal, and she’s going to win more of these events in the future, I’m convinced. She’s going to be a superstar in this sport and an incredible role model for young girls and young children.”
‘Her life has changed overnight’
Former British number one Annabel Croft said that Ms Raducanu’s life has “changed overnight” following her Flushing Meadows win.
She labelled the US Open champion as a “very, very special star,” but warned that “everybody will want a piece of her”.
Ms Croft told BBC Breakfast: “You can clearly see there’s been an enormous amount of hard work throughout the course of her life. She’s only very young, she’s 18.
“Everybody will want a piece of her and she seems to be so incredibly mature about everything, even the way she speaks and the way she handles the press, I think she’s incredibly natural.
“So I think they’ll want to definitely try to keep that I would say, I hope they don’t train her too much because she’s got it all – but you know for her, her life has changed overnight.”
What is next for Emma Raducanu?
The 18-year-old from Kent created history by coming through qualifying and then seven matches in straight sets to lift the title in just her second major tournament.
It will be a life-changing moment for Ms Raducanu, who sat her A-Levels only three months ago.
When will she come home?
No details have yet been released about when Ms Raducanu will travel back to the UK, but she was expected to have more media duties, likely including appearances on American TV networks, while she also hoped to do some sightseeing. Her arrival back in London is sure to generate huge interest.
What will her next tournament be?
That is also up in the air. Ms Raducanu pulled out of the tournaments she had entered in the next couple of weeks and will surely want some time at home to rest and digest what she has achieved. Currently her next appearance is scheduled to be in qualifying for the WTA event in Chicago at the end of the month.
Why would she still be in qualifying?
Despite seeing her ranking soar from 150 to 23, entry into tennis tournaments closes several weeks prior to the event, meaning Ms Raducanu would need to ask for wild cards to get into the main draw in Chicago and the prestigious BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells next month. As a grand slam champion, she will have her pick of events.
What other decisions will she need to make?
Coaching is a big one. Ms Raducanu surprisingly ended her deal with the experienced Nigel Sears after Wimbledon and was coached on her US trip by Andrew Richardson. That partnership has clearly been extremely successful but discussions need to be had about her team moving forward.
How about sponsorship deals?
Ms Raducanu will be in huge demand and it will be important for those around her not to say yes to everything offered to her, on and off the court. She is represented by super agents IMG and Max Eisenbud, who helped Maria Sharapova become the world’s highest-earning female sports star.