Emma Raducanu’s former coach says he is ‘immensely proud’
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Emma Raducanu, 18, stormed to fame this summer, making waves at Wimbledon before cementing her fate as the first qualifier in history to reach – and win – a grand slam final at the US Open. The new British tennis superstar made her name in only her fourth tour-level event since she started her full-time professional tennis career after finishing her A-levels in the summer. Here’s a look at the people she keeps close on her path to greatness.
1. The Mum
Emma’s mother, from Shenyang, China, watched her daughter quietly from the stands during Wimbledon.
Both Dong Mei Zhai, known as Renee, and her husband, Ian, were unable to travel to New York for the US Open due to Covid visa restrictions, but it was clear the teenager felt the support and drive from her mum all the way.
Emma told Vogue: “I think the confidence comes from just inner belief.
“My mum comes from a Chinese background, they have very good self-belief.
“It’s not necessarily about telling everyone how good you are, but it’s about believing it within yourself. I really respect that about the culture.”
She told the BBC of the hug her mother gave her when she got home and the dumplings she cooked up in celebration.
2. The Dad
Ian Raducanu, Emma’s Romanian-born father, is said to be a softly-spoken man with a steely side.
Insiders say he’s known for his no-nonsense approach and has a history of hiring and firing her coaches over the years.
Emma has said both her parents demand the best from their children.
She said: “They have been pushy to an extent.
“Not just in tennis but in everything. I think that I’ve developed that mentality since a young age.”
The teen and her father reportedly hit tennis balls together in the street during lockdown and though he wasn’t able to attend the US Open, knowing they were watching still gave her an extra push.
After her big win, she said: “My dad said to me, ‘you’re even better than your dad thought’, so that was reassuring!
“My dad’s definitely very tough to please but I managed to today.”
3. The best friend
Benjamin Heynold, 19, an ex-tennis protégé Emma has known since they were six, has been her “rock” ever since they grew up and went on to represent Team GB together, according to reports.
Benjamin is studying in New York now, and posted pictures on his Instagram of the pals after the win, posing with Emma under a billboard emblazoned with the new star, captioned, “History”.
Emma’s Instagram shows the friends over the years too,
posing together as baby-faced tennis players at the European Championships and shots of them with friends at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.
4. The coach
Throughout the Open, Emma talked about the closeness of her team, who changed since Wimbledon.
Emma decided to part ways with her coach of two years, Nigel Sears, and return to a familiar face, Andrew Richardson, who had worked with her when she was 11.
Andrew, a 47-year-old former player who is friends with Tim Henman, has been described by Emma as a calming influence who provides helpful perspective when she gets too fired up.
The 6ft 7in coach is dubbed the “gentle giant” or “flex” due to his enormous frame.
After winning the open, Emma lept into the box to give her team a big hug, and Andrew was front and centre.
5. The physio
Also cheering Emma from the box in New York was Will Herbert, a physio who helped the whole group of British playters at the Open, but is known to make Emma laugh.
She credited him for keeping her in one piece during her run to the final, dubbing him her “mechanic”.
Associates describe Herbert, 43, as “funny and good to be around” and he and Raducanu clearly have a laugh when they’re together.
A photo she shared of them giggling as he presses his elbow into her hip has been liked more than 81,000 times.
6. The agent
Chris Helliar is Emma’s day-to-day agent and was also in the box cheering Emma on.
The former ATP pro who retired from tennis in 2015 became a talent agent at entertainment giant IMG in April this year, and at a good time, too, as Emma stormed onto the scene.
Alongside representing superstars including Naomi Osaka ad Serena Williams, he and fellow agent Max Eisenbud are responsible for sharing Raducanu’s agency duties.
7. The secret mentor
According to reports, tennis veteran Tim Henman, 47, a close friend of Emma’s coach, has become her secret mentor.
A telltale sign of their bond was seen when they exchanged a loaded look during Saturday’s final.
Speaking after her win, she said: “It means so much to have Virginia [Wade] here and also Tim.
“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.”
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