It seems a lifetime ago — Emma Raducanu had negotiated the three rounds of US Open qualifying and Andrew Richardson was starting to have an inkling.
Her scheduled first-round opponent in the main draw, world No 14 Jennifer Brady, had withdrawn and he was starting to think their stay in New York might just be longer than expected.
They had a conversation over the weekend before the tournament properly began.
Coach Andrew Richardson has played a key role in Emma Raducanu’s stunning US Open win
The Brit celebrated joyously with all of Raducanu’s team after she won the final on Saturday
‘I said, ‘It is going to take a really good performance to beat you. If you keep performing the way you’re performing, someone’s going to have to play really well’,’ he recalled. ‘I knew after qualifying that Emma’s level was extremely high.
‘Then you gain momentum. Players started seeing the results and start viewing you differently. At the same time we never got ahead of ourselves, we just took care of what was in front of her every day.’
No coach has known Raducanu better than the former British Davis Cup player, and that is how Richardson found himself at the centre of this extraordinary story.
When considering who should accompany her on what was to be her longest trip away from home, Raducanu and her parents decided to prioritise someone with whom she has also felt comfortable.
It proved a masterstroke and seven weeks on, he has suddenly coached a Grand Slam champion despite having a relative lack of tour level experience — like his player.
The 18-year-old embraced Richardson after beating Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 in New York
In the wake of her triumph on Saturday, there was the touching scene of her presenting Richardson with a trophy of his own, as has become a tradition at the US Open.
Afterwards the softly-spoken giant, 47, reflected on a journey which began when he spent two years honing her game at the Bromley Tennis Centre before she reached her teenage years.
‘I’ve known Emma and her parents for a long time, since she was 10,’ he said. ‘The timing was she was looking for a coach (Nigel Sears had been stood down after Wimbledon), and my availability with my family situation sort of coincided. She approached me and I was really happy to do it.’
Their road trip together took them to tournaments in California, Pennsylvania and Chicago before ending up in New York.
‘I’ve known Emma a long time,’ he explained. ‘She has many strengths: some of them you can see, some you can’t see. For me, the biggest strength is the mind.
Raducanu’s (middle) game was honed in Bromley under Richardson’s (second right) guidance
The Brit was counselled by Richardson’s close friend Tim Henman on staying in the moment
‘I think a lot of it’s to do with her upbringing, the core values. She’s always had that, I don’t think it can be coached. It’s about parenting and I think her parents should take a lot of credit.
‘People have to remember that while she played 10 matches in New York, she came into qualifying having played five matches in Chicago in tough conditions and six matches in Landisville (Pennsylvania).
‘So she played 11 matches in about 14 days coming into here. The mental strength that she has is truly special. She has the ability to deal with adversity and compete, and then she has the technical strengths to go with it.’
Richardson does not know what the future holds as yet. Emma’s father Ian is known for his particular views on coaching, and likes to draw on a wide range of expertise. She may not end up having a conventional relationship with one mentor for any long period of time.
Discussions about the coming months have yet to be had. ‘No conversations, just enjoy,’ said Richardson, whose emotional intelligence probably serves him better as a coach than it did as a player, in a career which saw him reach a ranking of 133.
Former British Davis Cup player Richardson also praised Raducanu’s ‘special’ mental strength
‘Obviously, this is a moment that doesn’t happen very often. So I’m going to enjoy it and I think she should as well. I’m sure when we get back to England we will see what the plans are.’
He encouraged her to stay in a fixed routine throughout the US Open and to shut out the gathering clamour about what she was starting to achieve.
Richardson adopted his own pattern of life, having breakfast at the same corner deli every morning and often dining in the evening with Tim Henman, one of his best friends from playing days, in the evening. Henman, a former US Open semi-finalist, also counselled Raducanu about staying in the moment.
‘Although she’s obviously aware of what she’s done, she’s been in this bubble with the team,’ added Richardson. ‘So she’s been able to focus on tennis and not get caught up in some of the things back home.
‘Her life has changed again, and moving forward the people that she has around her are going to be really important. She’s got great parents. She’s going to have to be looked after and have a strong team around to protect her.’