You could tell right away that Emma Raducanu was a special talent – Coach Matt James

One look at Emma Raducanu was enough to convince tennis coach Matt James that he had a special talent on his hands.

A chance meeting with Nigel Sears, then working with the 15-year-old as a consultant, at Wimbledon three years ago, gave Welshman James the opportunity to coach him on a daily basis.

“You can tell right away that she’s pretty special,” James told the PA News Agency. “The state of mind and maturity on the match field that we don’t see very often, I hadn’t really seen. So it was pretty exciting.

“You knew she could handle big opportunities and it’s just a matter of making these big improvements on the pitch to back it up.

“Obviously she’s a very bright girl and you can tell she’s so determined to be great at whatever she does. It’s no surprise that she’s really good academically.

“When we were at Bromley [Tennis Centre], we played tennis between his school sessions, when many players of his level would have stopped education after the GCSEs. But she’s really serious and determined to do both really well, so I hold her back. “

James worked with Raducanu full time for just over two years, perfecting his game for senior tennis and helping him take his first steps on the professional circuit before becoming a coach at the Lawn Tennis Association’s National Tennis Center. last October.

The teenager was successful in the lower levels right away, but she decided not to travel during the pandemic, focusing on her A levels and playing only at the national level.

She did not play a professional match between February 2020 and June 2021, so the fact that she finds herself in the fourth round of Wimbledon four weeks later is an incredible achievement.

James is temporarily back with the Raducanu squad and sat down on the court for her thrilling victory over Sorana Cirstea on Court One on Saturday.

He said: “The level she played, I’ve seen it before, I’ve seen it on the practice courts, so tennis is not a big surprise, but some of the shots under pressure m ‘really surprised.

“We know she loves the big stage but she was still going into the unknown.

“This is the first time that she has fully embarked on a tennis career, so it’s great that she was successful so quickly. But that was only a matter of when. It was going to be. inevitable with her that she burst on the scene.

“It’s probably a little earlier than I thought because she didn’t play a lot of matches last year but she really took the opportunity.

“She’s played three games and physically she looks strong. She’s going to worry all opponents now.”

Raducanu now works full-time with Sears, whose services are paid for by the LTA as part of the Pro Teen Scholarship Program for top 16-24 year olds.

The fact that she has an extremely experienced guiding hand will no doubt be helpful given that she has gone from virtual anonymity to the front pages of national newspapers within a week.

James, however, isn’t worried about the huge interest she’s arousing, stating, “She’s a smart girl. She will take what she wants and she can block the rest.

Emma Raducanu celebrates her Wimbledon victory

(PA wire)

“She knows there will be the hype, but she also trained for the big stage. Even years ago we would talk about the best players in the world and say, ‘This is how you are going to compete with them’.

“It was almost a motivation back then. It shouldn’t come as a shock to her that she now plays these people.

“I remember on the training ground, if she was struggling a few years ago, it was like ‘Look, you can throw in the towel here, but this person, this person, this person is trying to to train right now and that’s what she’s going to do, and we have to get the hard work in.

“And that generally stimulated her. I remember a few sessions where it really motivated her, wanting to be up there because she knew she would have to work harder than the others if she was studying. “

Next up for the 18-year-old is unranked Australian Ajla Tomljanovic, who is 10 years older than Raducanu but also looking to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time.

“I don’t think Emma is really scared of anyone,” James said. “She beat some of the top 30 girls in the world in practice heats, so it’s no surprise that tennis is holding up. And it’s great that she’s gaining experiences. to raise it even more. “

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