That’s the view of British ladies captain Anne Keothavong, who is convinced Raducanu will be a top-10 player. Minimum.
Raducanu, 18, has captured the hearts and imaginations of British sport fans after storming into the last-16 on her Wimbledon debut and given the manner of her performances so far, there’s no reason why she can’t go further.
Having already taken out former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova and Romania’s Sorana Cirstea – who has knocked British No. 1 Johanna Konta out of two Grand Slams in the past 12 months – she now faces world No. 71 Ajla Tomljanovic, the 28-year-old Australian who is making just her second appearance in the fourth round of a major event.
Keothavong, the former British No. 1 who now captains the Billie Jean King Cup squad, has been astonished by the confident and dominant performances from Raducanu – who is yet to drop a set at the All England Club.
And ahead of her Court 1 match on Manic Monday, Keothavong insisted that Raducanu can take heart from the open nature of women’s tennis. After all, there have been five first-time major winners in the last eight Grand Slams.
Asked if there was anyone left in the draw who Raducanu should fear, Keothavong told a small group of journalists: ‘No. I mean, honestly, I feel like every day this week, I’ve been asked, “Who’s your favourite?” and I don’t dare mention a name anymore, because I don’t want to look like a fool.
‘It’s so unpredictable, which should give someone like Emma confidence. I think all the lower ranked players are aware of it and everyone feels like they’ve got a chance, which is which is great for them.
‘But you know, in terms of one player who stands out from the rest, I don’t think that would be right to name anyone right now.’
Keothavong first met Raducanu as an 11-year-old when the world No. 338 was selected to be a ‘guinea pig’ for her coaching training.
‘This is a bit of a funny one, because it was after I retired, and I was doing my coaching course,’ she added.
‘We needed some guinea pigs and so Emma, and another young girl came along to a National Tennis Centre, and were our guinea pigs for a few hours. So that was the first time I actually hit with her.
‘I had heard she was one of the highest-ranked or one of the best players in the country. And honestly, I mean, it wasn’t like I’ve been hitting too many tennis balls after I retired but you suddenly thought, Oh my goodness, this is an 11 year old, I actually I need to try and play as well as I can because solely to show her who is boss here.
‘I remember thinking she was really special. Yeah, even then she had the game. She was looking to take the ball on the rise, you don’t see many 11 year olds looking to play the way she did. She had fabulous timing.
‘And, you know, she was just very self-assured. I followed her career closely. She’s been a part of the Fed Cup team. And I’ve been down to Bromley occasionally when she was still at school and joining in the odd practice session here and there.
‘She’s a real student of the game. She’s someone who studies her opponent, she studies her own tennis. She’ll watch replays, she’ll watch videos and she’ll talk about it. And she’s curious. So she’s not shy about asking different people for bits of information and her dad is like that as well.
‘They’re happy to tap into lots of different people and take what they want from it and go with it. And it’s worked for her.’
Of course a run at Wimbledon is one thing, but backing it up week in week out on tour will be required for Raducanu to fulfil her potential.
A jump up the rankings – Raducanu will rise to around 175 in the world and would leap to inside the top-140 with a win on Monday – will allow her to compete at higher level events. In the unlikely event she went all the way in SW19, she would land just outside the top-30.
Regardless of results this week, however, Keothavong is certain Raducanu – who was initially denied a main draw wildcard before a swift rethink from the All England Club – is a top-10 player in the making.
‘We’re talking top-10. She’s the real deal,’ added Keothavong. ‘The biggest challenge is just – I want to say let’s not get overexcited, but I’m getting really excited and I’m going to sound like a hypocrite.
‘We should celebrate the success. It’s hard not to look too far ahead. But again, I keep saying she hasn’t had a full year on the tour yet. Just let her play, there’s still room for improvement in so many different areas.
‘From the back of the court, we know she’s strong on both wings, she moves really well but she’s got to develop her game at the front of the court.’
As for her next opponent – the fiery Australian Tomljanovic who was involved in a heated row with former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the third round – Keothavong is adamant it’s a very winnable match.
‘It’s a match she certainly has a chance in,’ said Keothavong. ‘Having seen her perform against a French Open finalist and then Cirstea, I have no doubt that she should go into that feeling and knowing that she can absolutely win this match.
‘Tomljanovic is someone with a big serve, but I don’t think that will faze Emma. We saw some of the returns that came back at her [Cirstea] from Emma.
‘So, look, for Emma I know she’ll speak to a few people. She’ll be watching videos of Tomljanovic, she won’t want to overcomplicate anything, and she’ll keep doing what she’s doing.’
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