Exclusive – Tim Henman backing Emma Raducanu after her stunning return to form

Emma Raducanu

Former British No 1 Tim Henman has told Tennis365 that Emma Raducanu has what it takes to stun the sporting world once again, as he backed the British teenager to shine at the top of the game.

Henman was curtsied in his role as an Amazon Prime Sport pundit throughout Raducanu’s remarkable run to victory at last year’s US Open, but the 19-year-old has struggled to back up that success in the year since.

Now she is showing signs of a revival after big wins against Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka at the Cincinnati Masters, with Henman offering his backing to a player who could be a real dark horse to shine at the US Open later this month.

“She should get back there (US Open) and really enjoy it,” Henman told Tennis365 at a Play Your Way To Wimbledon event.

“What she achieved coming through qualifying to win a Grand Slam was one of the most incredible things I’d ever seen in tennis.

“I was so fortunate to be court side over those three weeks and she’s had a steep learning curve from there. It hasn’t been straight forward and she’s had plenty of adversity, but I’ve been so impressed with her attitude.

“She sometimes gets knocked down, but she dusts herself off and gets straight back up, she embraces those challenges and she has learned an enormous amount.

“The biggest area is to build up the physical resilience and when she does that, she will go on to achieve more great things in the sport.”

Henman believes Raducanu’s US Open defence will allow her to draw a line under her breakthrough year on the WTA Tour, as he says there is every reason to be excited about what the youngster can achieve.

“She will have had an incredible 12 months from winning the US Open and going back to defend her title,” added Henman. “Then it’s almost as if she can draw a line in the sand and build for the future.

“I think she has played some really good tennis this year. There is no question about her ability and mental fortitude.

“The one are where she needs time and we have to be patient is the physicality and understanding what Tour life is all about. There is masses to be excited about and it is all about being patient.”

Raducanu confirmed she is return to form as she beat her second former grand slam champion in as many days by destroying Victoria Azarenka in Cincinnati.

Less than 16 hours after she dumped Serena Williams out of the Western and Southern Open with a 6-4 6-0 victory she was at it again with an even more dominant 6-0 6-2 win in just over an hour.

Both of her opponents are nearing the end of their careers, but the manner of the victory for Raducanu reinforced how strong her future will be as she played confidently and with control.

The 19-year-old will definitely face a tougher encounter in the last 16 as she faces seventh seed Jennifer Pegula.

“I was playing a great match for sure and to play Vika I had to stay focused throughout,” she said during her on-court interview.

“In the second set I could feel the important moments and a couple of turning points that could have made the second set really difficult.

“I am really pleased with how I dug in and serving it out in that last game was really difficult.

“It was another honour to play Vika, she has won so many championships and slams, so it was a great honour to be out here.

“I have realised in the last year, people are going to talk whatever you do and maybe things I do are more amplified because of my situation.

“I just learned to really zone in internally and today and yesterday, I don’t really show any emotion. I didn’t let myself get too high or too low and that definitely helped.”

Tim Henman was speaking at a Play Your Way to Wimbledon event, after the finals we staged at the All England Club last weekend.

The competition looks to inspire the next generation of tennis talent; allowing junior players to follow in the footsteps of their heroes and compete for a chance to play on Wimbledon’s iconic courts.

Formerly known as the Road to Wimbledon, the competition launched in March and is delivered in partnership by the LTA, The All-England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, and Vodafone.

Thousands of 14&U and 18&U players took part in the qualifying stages this year, leading to county and regional finals in June and July, with the winners progressing to the national finals on Wimbledon’s famous grass courts.

Play Your Way to Wimbledon, Powered by Vodafone is the UK’s largest grassroots tennis competition and is delivered in partnership with the LTA, the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club and Vodafone.