Emma Raducanu made history by ending a 44-year wait for a British female Grand Slam singles champion on Saturday night – and the teenager’s road to glory was aided by Andy Murray.
New footage shows how the teenager went toe-to-toe with the three-time Grand Slam champion at the National Tennis Centre, just nine months before she stormed to victory at the US Open.
Those practice sessions against the Scot were no doubt invaluable for Raducanu, who defied the odds in New York. The 18-year-old is the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam and did so without dropping a single set.
A young Raducanu and Murray trained together during the off-season last December, before both went on to compete at Wimbledon.
The video shows Raducanu looking over at Murray before the pair take to the court for an intense rally and that experience has more than benefitted the young star.
Murray and Raducanu have history, with the pair also meeting in a mixed doubles clash at the Battle of the Brits in the summer of 2020.
Emma Raducanu made history by ending a 44-year wait for a British female Grand Slam singles champion on Saturday night
Raducanu rallied with Andy Murray at the National Tennis Centre back in December
Break point down, second serve, the teen could have buckled against a three-time major winner ready to pounce.
What happened next? Murray blinked first. Locked in a cross-court trade, the then-17-year-old smoked a backhand deep in the court, triggering Murray to net timidly with a backhand of his own.
Needless to say, not many saw that coming. Certainly not fellow British players on the sideline, who weren’t about to pass up the chance to have a firm dig in the Scot’s direction.
British No 5 Liam Broady quipped, ‘That’s way too heavy for Andy!’ while doubles player Dom Inglot bellowed: ‘Andy’s worst nightmare: Emma Raducanu!’ Sure, it was a jovial moment. And sure, it was just one rally. But there it was: the power and composure needed to become a champion.
Raducanu alongside Murray and Jack Draper at the National Tennis Centre two years ago
Raducanu also came up against Andy Murray in a mixed doubles match last August
After her quarter-final triumph over Olympic champion Belinda Bencic, Raducanu cited Murray – who won his first major at Flushing Meadows nine years ago – as one of her role models.
Andy has quite often spoken to me,’ she said.
‘I actually hit with him two times, which was really good for me to see his ball speed and how good he is.’
Murray – who supports the Prime Video Future Talent Award won by Raducanu in 2019 – has been a mentor for the 18-year-old and came to her defence when she suffered criticism following her withdrawal at Wimbledon earlier this year due to ‘breathing difficulties’.
Responding to Piers Morgan and Kevin Pieterse’s criticism of her, Murray replied: ‘No question mental toughness can be what separates the best in sport but surely both of you aren’t judging her mental toughness on yesterday’s match?!’
No question mental toughness can be what separates the best in sport but surely both of you aren’t judging her mental toughness on yesterday’s match?! https://t.co/83tLG5F9ca
— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) July 6, 2021
The 18-year-old followed in Murray’s footsteps by claiming victory at Flushing Meadows
Murray’s coach, Jamie Delgado, meanwhile compared Raducanu’s ability from the back of the court to a certain Japanese player who made her own ascent to stardom in New York three years ago.
‘Andy is a big fan of Emma and thinks she’s an excellent player,’ he told The Times this week.
‘I remember Andy hitting with Naomi Osaka in Brisbane in 2018 and her intensity and ball-striking was so impressive. Emma reminded me of her…
‘It was the first time she had practiced with Andy and obviously there are going to be nerves. But with Andy hitting it really hard on a fast-ish indoor court, her ability to hit back with interest made it clear that she had something special.’
That ‘something special’ has been evident throughout the summer, not least stateside where a quite unbelievable two weeks saw Raducanu become the first British female winner at Flushing Meadows since Virginia Wade in 1968.
Before the pandemic, Raducanu and Murray posed alongside fellow British youngster Jack Draper – who took a set off champion Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon this year – in a commitment by Amazon to support potential future stars with funding and the mentorship of Murray himself.
The two-time Wimbledon champion has certainly had an effect on Raducanu, 16 years his junior.
With further support from the LTA’s Pro Scholarship Programme, Raducanu has harnessed her game to the point of mesmerising consistency, with the help of recently hired coach Andrew Richardson.
It took Murray until he was 21 to reach his first major final and he was 25 before he won his first Grand Slam. Raducanu has beaten that record and some.
- The makings of a champion: what sets Emma Raducanu apart | Sport | The Times