Emma Raducanu can be Britain’s answer to the Williams sisters, claims the president of the International Tennis Federation, as he predicts a tennis boom in this country.
David Haggerty says the rise of Raducanu and Cameron Norrie, who won at Indian Wells earlier this month, could be “game-changing for the sport”, just like it was when Serena and Venus emerged in America in the 1990s.
In an interview with Telegraph Sport, Haggerty said he was “very excited” by the duo heading into the Grand Slam calendar next year.
And the American believes Raducanu, whose historic US Open win captivated the sporting world, has the power to transform tennis. “As you saw with Andy Murray’s success at Wimbledon, performing in your own back yard brings heightened pressures and scrutiny,” Haggert said. “But it can also bring huge rewards – for the sport in the country and for the individual.
“As a proud American, I saw first-hand what Serena and Venus Williams’ successes at the US Open had on tennis in the States. They were game-changing for the sport. If Raducanu can build on the fantastic start to her tennis journey, why can’t her impact at Wimbledon and for Great Britain be similar?
“I think it’s really important for British tennis to have its star players perform at Wimbledon. I travel around the world, as I am not British by nationality, I have a different perspective but when I look at the pressure that I see for sports here – across every sport – that is why I think it is so important to celebrate success like we have seen with Emma, and with what Cam is doing as well.”
Ambitions for team tennis
Unsurprisingly, Raducanu has yet to replicate the heroics of Flushing Meadows, and was knocked out of the Transylvania Open in the last eight. Yet her stardust remains and Haggerty is excited to see it in the Billie Jean King Cup, the latest version of the Fed Cup.
Britain did not qualify for the finals, which begin in Prague later this week, but Haggerty is certain Raducanu will shine at the ITF event, known as the World Cup of Tennis, in the future.
“And don’t forget that Great Britain has never won the Billie Jean King Cup,” he added. “So, from an ITF perspective, we’d love to see her pull on Team GB’s red, white and blue in that event also.
“I am very excited about what I think it can mean for Great Britain. First of all it has helped unlock some facilities for the sport, if someone from Bromley can go from taking her exams one week to being in the finals of a Grand Slam a couple of weeks later – that is tremendous.
“I am also pleased that the LTA has a good relationship with her and is working with her. She will really help grow tennis in this country.”
Need for more women administrators
Haggerty, one of the sport’s most prominent administrators, is also urging more women to stay in the game after they retire from playing as tennis addresses the great female talent drain.
The ITF has committed to creating more pathways for female players in officiating and coaching and want at least 40 per cent of the body’s committee and commission members to be women by 2024 under the United Nations HerforShe gender equality initiative.
Haggerty himself decided to become a HeforShe champion partly due to being father to four daughters and one son but believes there needs to be greater opportunities for women in tennis beyond playing when there is an almost equal participation rate in the sport.
“In terms of officiating, coaching, when we look at administrators and boards of directors, committees in the nations, regions and the ITF level, it is just not good enough. We have to do better,” he said. “We have set targets and ambitions around the number of female board members that we want. We want more women from tennis on boards but just as importantly we want them as officials and coaches. It will be a great benefit.”
He pointed to Andy Murray as leading an example for gender equality in the sport for his hiring of Amelie Mauresmo as his coach in 2014. “It was great when Andy Murray had Amelie Mauresmo coaching him – he was not afraid and he said ‘she is the best coach for me’ and he truly believed it and not everybody agreed with him but I think it was great to see how Amelie helped him in that part of his career,” said Haggerty.
He also credited the Scot’s overall influence in tennis on gender issues and the influence of his mother Judy as a good example for the sport. “Andy has been a beacon of light. His upbringing and Judy, his mum, has already shown the strength of a woman and the importance of a woman in a man’s career.”