Emma Raducanu’s former coach says he is ‘immensely proud’
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Emma Raducanu only sat her A-levels three months ago, but is already considered an ‘inspiration’ to a younger generation of tennis players. The 18-year-old’s former coach, Matthew James, believes her remarkable triumph at the US Open will spur on junior players, and also warned she “will only get stronger” after capturing a Slam in only her second major tournament. By beating Leylah Fernandez in straight sets on Sunday, Raducanu became the first qualifier in history to win a Slam, and the first British woman to triumph at Flushing Meadows since 1968. Her success also made her the youngest female Grand Slam champion since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004, aged 17.
Despite being well aware of her potential, LTA coach James admitted he was still struggling to gauge her staggering achievement.
“It will inspire a lot of young players,” he told the BBC.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet (for him). I’m surprised it’s come so soon.
“I think a lot of us thought maybe she would be top 50 in the world in a few years. But you’re seeing a competitor: Determined, dogged, gritty and ruthless.”
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James, whose work is based at the National Tennis Centre in London, added his former pupil still had things to work on – but backed her to become even more formidable.
“You could see that a few years ago when she was competing in Junior Wimbledon and actually playing Leylah (Fernandez) back then – she was doing a lot of the same stuff,” James added. “She’s going to use this experience to learn.
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“She’s going to get stronger, she’s going to get more robust. Things can still improve.”
Raducanu is already a youth ambassador for the LTA and James, from Flintshire in Wales, now hopes her success can increase the spotlight on grassroots tennis in the UK.
“There are a lot of courts in the UK that aren’t being used and need a bit of work doing,” said the 27-year-old.
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“I know there’s going to be a lot of money, hopefully, put into these to get the courts and facilities in a a good place.
“There’s a lot of buzz around British tennis right now – so let’s get those players on court.”
James’ sister, Bethan Lewis, is a non-executive director at Tennis Wales, and told BBC Radio Wales: “For young children particularly, just seeing her and seeing what she’s achieved is just incredible.”
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