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Mark Petchey: Emma Raducanu likely to change coaches frequently
"She's very proactive about the way she wants to build her game," her former coach tells us. On Monday, it was reported the US Open champion will work with Esteban Carril on a trial basis.
Published Oct 19, 2021
INDIAN WELLS: Raducanu addresses media following her defeat
Emma Raducanu's ride to the top of the game has been unprecedented but the twists and turns have only just begun.
The 18-year-old from Britain grabbed worldwide attention a few weeks ago when she became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam at the US Open. Since then, she's split with the coach who helped guide her to victory and lost her opener at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
Raducanu's former coach Mark Petchey, who worked with her from July-December 2020 and then again from March-April this season, was almost as surprised as anyone else when she won the US Open.
"I knew she was a good player, I knew she was going to be Top 50 fairly soon, but did anyone think she was going to win a Slam from qualifying—no," Petchey told Tennis.com in an interview.
The former ATP player, who is now also a broadcast commentator, recalled his coaching stint with Maria Sharapova at a similar age, saying, ''I knew working with Maria, the way she hit the ball. I knew working with Emma the way she was hitting the ball and the improvements she had made, I knew she could win rounds at Slams and go deep, but obviously things fell her way."
The teenager has been invited to the Met Gala and a film premiere in London, has sponsors lining up and developed a large following since her record-setting run. On top of that, she must now assemble a new coaching team and re-organize her schedule. The huge reaction to Raducanu's victory, especially in Britain, makes it even harder for Petchey to tell where she will go from this point.
"I think it's off the charts. It's the stuff of dreams, it's movie-making," he said. "Usually there's this step-by-step, and preparing for this moment. It's very unique.
"For me to sit here and say I can say the future now, when I couldn't guess the future before, the answer is no. I do think, having known her for as long as I have, that she's one of the most mature and put-together 18-year-olds that I've ever met. I think she's got a great chance of being as capable of handling it as anyone, but these are significant times for her. Some parts of it will be amazing and other parts of it will be challenging."
When it comes to Raducanu's game, though, Petchey can assess the sources of her success more precisely.
"Yeah, just intensity to every point," he said. "Every point she brings the same thing. She plays her best tennis under pressure. She backs herself, moves much better than people give her credit for -- it's every efficient, and so it looks very easy. But, she moves incredibly effectively on the court.
"The US Open, she was serving very effectively, got a lot from it. That was a big focus for us. I still think that will improve massively. Her return is one of the best, very [Victoria] Azarenka-like. There's not a lot of holes in her game."
He can also pinpoint some areas for improvement.
"Some of it will be small, and some of it will be significant serving, volleying, and her ability to move into net," said Petchey. "Not the actual technique—her technique is very good, I think she sometimes just doesn't know where to stand. I think her forehand will become a more dominant shot."
But there has been plenty of conversation within the game about Raducanu not keeping on Andrew Richardson, the LTA coach who worked with her during the hardcourt season and had also coached Raducanu when she was younger. That has created some questioning of Raducanu and her father, Ian, who does not coach but has played a guiding role in her career decisions.
But Petchey is not sure that is warranted, saying, ''I think he's interesting. I like a lot of the stuff he's done. Emma herself is great."
Prior to the hard-court season, she'd worked with experienced WTA coach Nigel Sears, but they stopped following her run to the fourth round of Wimbledon.
But finding the right coach for a pro player can often be tough, notes Petchey, and with Raducanu will now be all the more difficult. "Especially when dealing with something so unique as an 18-year-old who's won a Grand Slam and also wants to have a good conversation," he said. "And I think, to be honest, that Emma will go through a lot coaches during her career.
"Because she will take what she needs from someone and she will find someone else who will be good for something else. She's very proactive about the way she wants to build her game.
"People need to understand that there will be a lot of collaborations during her career, rather than the 'hiring' and 'firing' of a coach. It feels so personal, and people need to stop getting hung up on hiring and firing."
Speaking to British press, Raducanu has said she is unlikely to select a new coach before the off-season, but also called for any experienced coaches to approach her about potentially joining her team. Raducanu has since began a trial partnership with Esteban Carril, a former coach of Johanna Konta.