I was first really impressed by Emma Raducanu at Wimbledon in the round of 32 when she beat Sorana Cirstea. I was commentating on that match and she was very positive, she embraced the crowd on Court One. I looked at her as a rising prospect right then. Rising prospects, do they actually win majors? Right now in women’s tennis they do.
When you see the way Emma played her matches in New York, especially in the second week, she played at that level. She played at the level of a major champion right now in women’s tennis. What has shifted is that all the variety, the diversity of women, there’s a trickle down effect which is: “If Barbora Krejcikova can win it, I can win it. If Iga Swiatek can win it, I can win it.”
What I liked most about the final was how she handled things at the end. There was adversity, she lost the two match points and faced break point. Then somehow Emma got her feet together, because by then she was pretty nervous, and she did this mis-hit overhead winner. Late in majors when you’re trying to close it out and you’re trying to keep the adrenaline under control, you need to be able to scratch out points like that.
I thought she handled things well. She obviously didn’t intend for her knee to be on the ground for three feet on the court to scrape it up. You can’t play with blood running down your leg. How she handled that whole situation was impressive. Then match point, I loved that. I feel like I’ve seen Roger, Novak and Serena through the years do this: step up to the line, bounce the ball however many times and with great clarity and great confidence, on her third championship point, she just nailed that serve out wide to the lefty’s forehand, a place that you don’t go to often. And that was it. Game, set match. That was the thing that was most impressive to me.
Also, what a brilliant move that she went back to her coach, Andrew Richardson, that she was extremely familiar and comfortable with and that had coached her before at a different time of her development. I just think that was a really smart decision. We all know Nigel Sears has a lot of experience but look at the dividends of how that paid off.
When you think about 10 matches over a course of three weeks, each step does prepare you for the next round. In the second week of a major, the feeling of what round you’re in does change. Whether it’s the locker room, the fact that you’re only playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium, there are bigger and bigger press conferences that last longer.
Raducanu being from Great Britain brings in a whole new element she has had to manage, which is the press and probably the thirst after so many years of not having a major champion on the women’s side since 1977. And because of her story, how she presents herself, she’s going to have to make a lot of smart decisions so she doesn’t have too much on her plate.
I never got to another major final but I was a top 10 player for eight years. I happened to find an amazing doubles partner, the greatest ever, Martina Navratilova. There’s a lot of ways your career can play out. If you would’ve told me that my first major final was the only major final I’d ever get to, I’d say: “Not a chance in the world, I’m 16.” But it didn’t happen.
You have to “One day at a time” it. Do all the things right, one day at a time. Keep, most of all, your body and your mind in shape and have really smart people around for the business side. Sometimes the business side doesn’t always understand that they don’t have the best interests of the tennis player. If Raducanu has her parents, an uncle she’s close to, someone in her life who isn’t on her payroll that can help with some really smart advice that she trusts. Because you need some people around you that can be in your ear but doesn’t have the dollar or pound conflict.
Based on what we saw for these two weeks, I would expect Raducanu to win other majors in her career. I would not expect it to happen in the next year based on my own experience and the experience of a lot of people who have their first breakthrough. You can even go back to Serena in 1999; it took her two and a half years to win her next major. It’s only a rare few like Monica Seles or Martina Hingis as teenagers who really just run them off. I would expect her to go back to the idea of: “What can I do to continue to develop my game to be a better tennis player?” which is what you’re trying to do before you win a major. Try and not have the main, core goal change.
Pam Shriver, a former world No 3 and 22-times doubles grand slam champion, was talking to Tumaini Carayol. Until Raducanu, Shriver was the only person to reach a grand slam final in her second attempt, which she did at the 1978 US Open aged 16.