Raducanu has Murray's steel and the smile of an angel, says Croft

ANNABEL CROFT: Emma Raducanu has Andy Murray’s steel and the smile of an angel… the Bromley teenager belongs on the game’s biggest stage

  • Emma Raducanu beat China’s Zhang Shuai to get to the US Open third round 
  • The British teenager emerged as a future star at Wimbledon earlier this year 
  • The 18-year-old faces Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo in the third round in New York 

I remember meeting Emma Raducanu at Bromley Tennis Centre when she was 12 years old. There was a wonderful joy about her. That huge grin, the love she had for tennis. It was impossible not to feel the warmth of her enthusiasm.

What’s great is you still sense that joy now when she’s in the heat of battle on Centre Court at Wimbledon or at the US Open.

She belongs on the big stage. Even if she’s not playing her best, or she loses a point, she will turn to her coach with a smile on her face.

Emma Raducanu is on the brink of moving into the world top 100 as the rapid rise continues

She has a genuine love for tennis. And she loves competing. That is important because life on the WTA Tour can sometimes beat you up a bit.

You can’t win every single match. It’s tough. But that brightness and balanced attitude will help her achieve her potential.

And that potential is limitless. We see a lot of talent break through but I think Emma has got something very special. It’s not just about the talent. It’s the hard work and desire. It’s the attitude.

She has all the right ingredients to be a future champion and a big star on tour. Emma’s the most exciting British prospect since Andy Murray. She reminds me of him, not in her style of play, but in that competitive nature and mental toughness on the court.

When you watch her play, there is a security about what she is doing. Whether she wins or loses, you don’t feel like you have to hide behind a pillow.

Emma Raducanu is busy analysing Sara Sorribes Tormo ahead of their US Open matchup 

She is already a complete player. Technically, she is very sound with no real weaknesses in her game for opponents to exploit. She has an amazing return of serve.

It’s aggressive and it sets the tone for her games. It also shows a lot of inner belief and self-confidence.

It looks like she has been inspired by Murray, who, alongside Novak Djokovic, has one of the best returns we have ever seen.

We have heard her after matches say that she’s having to sustain a really high level of performance to compete but, to watch her, it looks as though she is still playing very much within herself. Emma definitely has more gears to find.

She’s also incredibly intelligent. Her parents were always keen for her to get her education and, as a student, she earned an A-star in maths and an A in economics in her A-level results.

Her family also encouraged her to play as many different sports as possible as a child. She did ballet, riding, swimming, surfing, golf. You name it, she tried it.

It is something John McEnroe always talks about. If you play lots of sports when you’re young, it makes you more dextrous.

The British teenager beat Shuai Zhang of China in New York to progress to the third round 

It keeps your mind fresh and helps avoid burnout.

Simon Dahdi used to be the Lawn Tennis Association’s talent spotter and he told me during Wimbledon that he saw Raducanu as a 10-year-old and she was special even then.

She was so willing to learn, like a sponge. Whatever he told her to try, she would go away and learn it. She had an all-round game then too.

This is very much the honeymoon period at the start of her career but she is making the most of every opportunity that comes her way.

When you are a young British player given a wildcard to the grandest stage of them all at Wimbledon, it’s huge. But she grabbed it with both hands, embraced the hype and expectation and announced herself to the world.

But what has been even more impressive is what has happened since. She has backed it up at smaller events with smaller crowds under smaller spotlights.

I call it the tennis player’s apprenticeship and she has come through that with flying colours. That just shows how strong she is mentally.

And now she has captured even more hearts at the US Open.

There’s been an aura around her, everyone is talking about Emma. The public have become enthralled in her and her story. I think a lot of that is because they can feel the joy she brings to her tennis.

Her class has shone through. She can go very, very far.

The US Open is available to watch live exclusively on Amazon Prime Video through to Sunday 12 September.




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