Tennis

British tennis hoping to cash-in on Raducanu who 'shows it's possible'

British tennis hoping to cash-in on the EMMA EFFECT as Raducanu storms into US Open semi-finals to ‘show it’s possible’ for new generation of stars

  • Emma Raducanu faces-off with Maria Sakkari in the US Open semi-finals 
  • The 18-year-old has taken the tennis world by storm after her Wimbledon break
  • British tennis has struggled for a long time but the teen is inspiring the future  

Some of Emma Raducanu’s fellow British players have been more conspicuous than others with their praise for her remarkable efforts at the US Open.

Katie Boulter and Jodie Burrage have been among those quickly taking to social media to express their admiration for the teenager, who was attempting last night to reach the final. 

Raising a few eyebrows was Jo Konta, who was tweeting about a home design TV show in the wake of Raducanu’s quarter-final win over Belinda Bencic on Wednesday.

Emma Raducanu’s storming performance at the US Open could help ignite British tennis 

The British teenager faces-off with Maria Sakkari in the semi-finals in New York on Friday 

Social media is not everything, and the now deposed GB No 1 may be delighted for her compatriot, but the timing was strange.

Regardless of that or Friday morning’s result against No 17 seed Maria Sakkari at Flushing Meadows, the 18-year-old from Kent is going to be a massive presence in the game for many years to come, with British tennis looking to reap a wider dividend.

An early example of that could come in February, should Anne Keothavong’s GB team be drawn at home in the first round of the Billie Jean King Cup. 

Rather than securing a venue to accommodate a couple of thousand fans, there will be a need to try to find something bigger — pandemic permitting —such will be the demand if she plays as expected.

Already Raducanu is booked in for an exhibition match at London’s Royal Albert Hall in late November, as part of the restored Champions Tour event taking place. In the Seventies, with the likes of Sue Barker and Virginia Wade in their pomp, the same venue hosted the old Wightman Cup GB v USA match.

Whether Sakkari get the better of her junior rival is irrelevant to Raducanu’s bright future 

What is certain is that Raducanu’s popularity should be a potent weapon in the battle to attract female players to tennis, in the face of increasing competition from other sports.

Iain Bates, the Lawn Tennis Association’s head of women’s tennis, believes her success in New York will provide a double benefit: showing other GB players what can be done, while attracting larger numbers feeding in at grassroots level.

‘We have seen how engaging Emma is,’ he said. ‘She transcends the immediate tennis audience and that’s so important. It’s easy to connect with her and she can incentivise more people to give tennis a go.

‘It’s also about giving the challenge to the rest of the player group. It’s showing them that it’s possible. We had three players who came through qualifying here (Raducanu, Boulter and Harriet Dart).’

Getting girls to play at all levels has been an increasing problem with so many leisure alternatives available, which is reflected in the wider picture when it comes to top-level young British players.

For all its lavish funding from Wimbledon and an army of employees, and undoubted efforts being made, there is little sign of the LTA creating any large scale production line of elite talent.

The teen has made a big impact already in tennis and has won herself a boatload of new fans 

This challenge is somewhat distinct from the emergence of Raducanu. As was the case with Andy Murray, truly exceptional players tend to come out of left field and cannot be manufactured.

What is more reasonable to expect is that a system, especially one as well resourced as Britain’s, comes up with a steady flow of players who can compete at the top end of the game.

Achieving substantive numbers remains a struggle. The nearest thing to Raducanu in her age bracket looks like 17-year-old Matilda Mutavdzic, who is ranked 18 in the world juniors and reached the third round of the US Open girls’ event.

Even the few men and women who make the top 100 often have a strong element of development overseas in their background. Cam Norrie, Konta and Heather Watson are examples of that, and Murray trained in Spain for a spell as a teenager.

Brits struggled to capitalise on Andy Murray’s success after being trained outside their system

Already there are problems at the LTA’s recently established flagship academy in Stirling, where Brazilian coach Leo Azevedo has left.

What can be said of Raducanu, however, is that she is definitely a product of British tennis, with multiple UK coaches involved in bringing her on.

She is also in the vanguard of the visibly increasing numbers of first generation Brits taking up the game seriously, often driven by ambitious parents.

This past fortnight, with its dramatic boost to her ranking, will now allow Raducanu to plan ahead much more easily, as she can enter which tournaments she pleases.

‘I didn’t expect it to happen this quickly for her,’ admitted Bates. ‘The scheduling now opens up for her. This will allow her to take a different approach in picking her tournaments while investing time in her physical robustness.’




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