Virginia Wade backs Emma Raducanu to win US Open – ‘she ticks all the boxes’

Emma Raducanu has delighted the fans at the US Open with her exciting brand of tennis - Getty Images
Emma Raducanu has delighted the fans at the US Open with her exciting brand of tennis – Getty Images

This US Open has been full of delightful surprises, none more gratifying than the moment of respect and mutual admiration shared by Emma Raducanu and Virginia Wade on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night.

Having just squashed Shelby Rogers for the loss of only three games, Raducanu made a point of thanking Wade – who remains Britain’s most successful Open-era champion – for taking the time to watch her play.

Wade smiled beatifically and applauded Raducanu, whose fearless tennis had just carried her through to the quarter-finals without dropping a set. Later, Wade told the Telegraph that she can see no weaknesses in Raducanu’s game, only upsides.

“There’s a few categories that I rate players on,” said Wade. “Athleticism, determination, technique, concentration, and an ability to improvise. Emma ticks all the boxes in my mind. She’s got a good physique. She’s quick, very athletic, and hits the ball beautifully in all areas. You might just like to see her come to the net a little bit more, becomes sometimes you need to do something a bit different.

“The only thing that could stop her would be injuries,” Wade added. “Or overplaying and getting stale and distracted. But I’m very optimistic. She could even go on and win this tournament. In the long run I don’t think it matters one way or another. But you look at it and think ‘Why not?’”

Virginia Wade watched Raducanu from the stands - Getty Images
Virginia Wade watched Raducanu from the stands – Getty Images

Now 76, Wade was the last British woman to lift the US Open title, all the way back in 1968. She also won Wimbledon in 1977 and the Australian Open in 1972, credentials that identify her as Britain’s greatest player of the professional era.

She moved to New York in the mid-1970s and lived in Manhattan until relocating to nearby Long Island four years ago. On Monday, she made special arrangements to visit Flushing Meadows in order to watch Raducanu, even though she confesses that “Technically, I wasn’t supposed to be in the President’s Box until today.”

“When someone special comes along, you can see they stand head and shoulders over their contemporaries,” Wade said. “During my career, with the likes of Chris Evert, we knew about them ages before they arrived on the tour. With Martina [Navratilova] and Steffi [Graf] you could tell they were going to be good forever.

“But you do have to be careful. With some people, it all goes to their head. Or they have to deal with so much stuff that it affects their tennis. Look at Naomi Osaka. With Emma, people are going to be after her like bees around a honeypot.”

Raducanu met Wade for a chat in the warren of corridors that run underneath Arthur Ashe Stadium after her victory - AP
Raducanu met Wade for a chat in the warren of corridors that run underneath Arthur Ashe Stadium after her victory – AP

After Monday’s match, Raducanu and Wade met up for a chat in the warren of corridors that run underneath Arthur Ashe Stadium. “I thought she was a really nice person,” said Wade. “I know she’s smart. She values her education.

“I told her ‘Don’t touch social media.’ She said ‘Yeah, I’ve given my phone to somebody to look after.’ It’s awful what social media has to say. Elina Svitolina [the recent Olympic bronze medallist] said to me, ‘You wouldn’t believe the hate mail we get.’ You really have to control yourself to stay away from all that. It’s vicious out there.”

Wade herself still goes out once a week for a hit, although like all former tennis players she laments the creaky state of her knees. She also enjoys golf, and says that she was so excited by the recent Solheim Cup that she had to tell herself to calm down, for fear of being crushed by a late reversal of fortune.

She was due back at Flushing Meadows on Tuesdaay to watch Leylah Fernandez, the 19-year-old Canadian who provided the tournament with one of its finest matches when she beat the 2017 champion here, Angelique Kerber, in Sunday’s fourth-round meeting. Meanwhile, Wade will continue to follow Raducanu’s campaign closely.

“Emma can take advantage of her unfamiliarity,” said Wade. “You come out of the gate, and nobody knows what to do against you. Then eventually they get used to the way you play and work out the best way to beat you. Iga Swiatek [who won the French Open last year at 19] is a very good example. The way she won Rome [in May], she just went bang, bang, bang.

“[Belinda] Bencic is a dangerous opponent,” Wade added, with regard to Wednesday’s quarter-final. “She won the Olympics, and with how she has been playing here, she is the favourite. But she is a different player when her serve isn’t firing. If anything goes off – as it can with her – then it’s goodbye.”