CHAMPAGNE, SUSHI & SWEET CA ROLINE
For Emma raducanu the aftermath of her US open victory involved a sing-song in the mini-van that took her and her team back to Manhattan late on Saturday night.
Then they sat up until nearly dawn reminiscing about an astonishing few weeks, sustained by a sushi feast and champagne.
The gathering was intimate at their Fifth Avenue hotel, which set aside the Presidential Suite for the first British woman to win a Grand Slam since Virginia Wade in 1977.
As one of the few Brits in New York through his TV work with Amazon Prime, former British No1 Tim Henman has been on hand to offer advice to raducanu throughout and was invited along for the ride.
More than four hours had passed since she hit the winning ace against Leylah Fernandez, time filled largely by media and ceremonial obligations. Then the tournament laid on transport back to the city, and what has become the sporting summer’s anthem was soon playing on the sound system.
‘After Emma had done all her commitments and photos we all climbed into a mini-bus,’ Henman told Sportsmail. ‘Someone put on Sweet Caroline and I’ve got this great video on my phone of everyone singing along.
‘It was a very special night and a real privilege to be invited and be there. We reminisced and talked about everything that has happened in the past few weeks.
‘I don’t think I left until 4.45am. It was such a happy occasion and everyone really enjoyed themselves.’
raducanu herself does not drink, but the others present were happy to attack the bubbly after what must be one of the most unlikely triumphs in the history of any sport.
Aside from Henman, those present who have been helping her included coach Andrew richardson, physio Will Herbert, LTA head of women’s tennis Iain Bates and Chris Helliar, a former pro who works for her management company and has been at her side throughout. They looked back on a remarkable run of 10 wins without a dropped set that had inauspicious beginnings.
It emerges that when raducanu arrived at Flushing Meadows from her previous tournament in Chicago, she was not even allowed to use the practice courts inside the grounds. Instead, she had to go to a neighbouring complex in
Corona Park, where she and richardson had to share a court with another qualifier.
Yesterday, three weeks later, she was doing the rounds of US TV breakfast shows as the new champion.
A day which began with appearances on Good Morning America and Today was due to end with her attending the dazzling Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last night.
Mixing with the great and the good is something the 18-year-old from Kent will get used to, and there was no sign of it fazing her. She made the short journey from her Fifth Avenue hotel to the GMA studios in Times Square for a gentle interrogation about the aftermath of Saturday’s final.
New men’s champion Daniil Medvedev was doing a similar tour after his straight sets defeat of Novak Djokovic on Sunday, and it added to the sense that the
elite of tennis is entering a period of renewal.
One of the interesting aspects about Raducanu is that with her astonishing rise, she has not received media coaching like some players, although you would never know it. She charmed her hosts as they asked her about all the congratulatory messages she had received, from the Queen downwards.
‘I was so honoured to receive a note from Her Majesty, it meant everything to me. I will probably frame the letter and keep it in my room or something,’ said Raducanu.
There was the revelation that her now famous mislaid AirPods, which she was going to replace with her meagre qualifying prize money of $42,000, were found in the locker room before her semi-final against Maria Sakkari.
Raducanu is likely to do more TV after she returns home in the middle of this week, but will soon need to get back to the business of planning her further ascent.
Yesterday’s updated rankings confirmed she has rocketed to 23 from 150. As she observed, getting stronger will be key to maintaining that. ‘Physically, I still have a lot of work to do,’ she said. ‘I’m still new to the game and I haven’t had that much time to develop.’
Her next tournament looks sure to be at Indian Wells, adjoining Palm Springs, in California next month. Amazingly, she is already 14th in the race to qualify for the year-end WTA Finals, open to the season’s top eight women.
It was announced yesterday that it is being switched from Shenzhen to Guadalajara in Mexico for this year, taking place in the week beginning November 8. Raducanu might need to win Indian Wells in order to qualify — although with the participation of Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka in doubt, the entry bar could yet be lowered for her.
She will have an immediate impact on British tennis, at a time when its most high-profile players, Andy Murray and Jo Konta, are wrestling with long-term injuries.
In sharp contrast, Murray was last night playing and winning in the first round of a Challenger event in Rennes as he tries to build on an encouraging showing in the New York first round.
He has privately congratulated Raducanu without joining in the clamour on social media and discussed the speed of the Arthur Ashe court surface with her.
Such is the attention garnered by British tennis’s new star that it went almost unnoticed yesterday that Dan Evans and Cam Norrie had reached career ranking highs of 23 and 28 respectively.