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A great homecoming for Emma, Joe, Alfie and Gordon

A special day of celebration started with a chat and a spot of doubles with the Duchess of Cambridge for Emma Raducanu at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton on Friday, ahead of The Homecoming event hosted by the LTA Youth programme to honour the four British US Open champions.

I feel, like, at this stage in my career, and playing the top players in the world, I realised I really need someone right now that has had that WTA Tour experience at the high levels, which means that I'm looking for someone who has been at that level and knows what it takes. And especially right now, because I'm so new to it. I really need someone to guide me who's already been through that. Emma Raducanu

Joe Salisbury, who won both the men’s and mixed doubles titles in New York, a British first, joined US Open women’s singles champion Raducanu alongside Wheelchair doubles winners Alfie Hewitt & Gordon Reid on stage with Clare Balding.

Earlier, the Duchess, wearing a pleated navy and white tennis skirt with a navy zip-up jacket and white trainers, chatted with the four champions before teaming up with Raducanu to play doubles with a white tennis racket.

The 39-year old Duchess joked about the awkwardness of social distancing rules as she joined the group, saying: “Are we shaking hands? I don’t want to break your training bubbles.

“It’s really awkward, you don’t know quite whether to do it. It is the same with face masks.

“You never know whether to hug people, congratulate them or shake hands. But amazing, guys honestly, congratulations.”

Later Raducanu said she was impressed with her royal partner, telling reporters: “Her forehand is incredible.”


The Duchess of Cambridge (C) poses with the four British US Open champions

© Jeremy Selwyn - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The 18-year old made history when she became the first British woman to win a major title for 44 years, just weeks after collecting her A-level results.

She also is the first player to come through three rounds of qualifying and seven main draw matches to win a Grand Slam title.

The Duchess congratulated all four US Open champions, especially Raducanu, who is the first British woman to win a major title since Virginia Wade in 1977.

“Amazing guys, honestly. Congratulations,” she said. “Seriously impressive!

“It’s been so nice for all of you to come back here in your home country to celebrate back home.”

Paying tribute to Emma’s incredible triumph against Canada’s Leylah Fernandez at the US Open final on 11 September, the Duchess had shared a personal message on Twitter: “Huge congratulations @EmmaRaducanu on your stunning performances and historic Grand Slam victory!”

The Duchess, who is a huge tennis fan and Patron of the LTA, then met teenagers from across the UK and heard about the LTA Youth programme.

The young athletes are playing tennis at a grassroots level as part of the program, which aims to encourage participation in the sport and inspire the next generation of players.

The program’s goal is to help more children enjoy the benefits of playing and staying in tennis, regardless of age, gender, ability, disability, or background.

“Her Royal Highness is passionate about supporting grassroots tennis and encouraging young people from all backgrounds to become involved in the sport,” The Duchess’s office said in a statement.


TV presenter Clare Balding talks to British US Open champions Gordon Reid, Alfie Hewett, Emma Raducanu and Joe Salisbury on stage as they return to the LTA's National Tennis Centre for The Homecoming and to celebrate their success

© Julian Finney/Getty Images for LTA

It has been some rollercoaster ride for Raducanu, who has climbed up the rankings from 345 in the world at the start of the year to 22 after winning at Flushing Meadows.

The Bromley teenager was first on stage where Clare Balding asked her questions and pupils at Bickley Primary School, where she attended, joined in via a video link.

She admitted she as more nervous playing with the Duchess of Cambridge than taking on Leylah Fernandez in the US Open final, and attributed her success to her parents’ worth ethic.

“I was actually very nervous playing the Duchess,” she said. “I was saying ‘don’t miss, don’t miss’.”

Asked how she kept from being distracted in New York, Raducanu said:  “In America, I was in such a bubble and zone that I didn’t really know or understand what was going on outside of it. I was just so focused

“Me and my team were taking care of every day.”

And how was it, playing the final?

“It takes some adjusting to, to play big matches,” she said. “There may be nerves before you go out to play the match but once you’re on there it feels like any other match.

“I think playing Leylah was such a cool experience because throughout the tournament we were beating players we weren’t expected to beat, so we had no pressure.

“Playing each other in the final is a completely different matchup, but out on the court it felt like any other match and any other opponent at the other end.”

Balding asked about watching the final on her return home, to which she responded: “The first time I watched [the final] back, I skipped all the bad bits. I just wanted to see what was going on from a spectators point of view.

“It was really cool to watch and it helped let the victory sink in a bit more.”

When asked what the coolest moment had been since her triumph in New York, Raducanu said: “I’ve had many cool opportunities, but the best moment was the moment after the final when me and the team had a really nice meal together reflecting on the fortnight we’d had.

“It was a special moment with my team, which will be with me forever.”

Raducanu also suggested that she would like to attend university, either on campus, remotely or after her tennis career, having attained a strong set of A-Level results this summer.

“I am definitely interested at some point in going to university,” she added. “I’m pretty interested in economics.

“My parents have both been in the industry so I’ll probably follow that.”


Emma Raducanu returns her own serve, replicated by a ball machine, with which she aced Leylah Fernandez on match point in New York

© Julian Finney/Getty Images for LTA

With her signature smile, Raducanu was both poised and eloquent in her answers, and joked with Salisbury when he joined the conversation on stage. Later, the two were joined by Hewitt & Reid.

Is there any prospect of Salisbury and Raducanu playing mixed doubles together?

Salisbury said he would love to but the conversation he would to have with his current partner, American Desirae Krawczyk, might not go down so well.

Raducanu also took to the court to return her own ace on match point serve, delivered by a ball machine, which was something she said was very difficult and had also made her nervous.

The Bromley teenager will need to be offered a wild-card for Indian Wells if she is to play there next month as direct entries are made on the rankings before the Flushing Meadows, and she has entered the Kremlin Cup as well but remains coy about as to when, exactly, she will return to the match court.

“I will decide in the next few days where I’m going to go next,” she said. “I haven’t had that much time to switch off and rest.

“I love what I do. Back training is where I want to be and where I go next I will make sure I’m ready to play and compete.”

She is also looking to work with a coach who has more WTA Tour experience than Andrew Richardson, who guided her to such success in New York.

“Where I was at, after Wimbledon, I was ranked around 200 in the world and, at the time, I thought Andrew would be a great coach to trial so we went to the States, but never did I even dream of winning the US Open and having the run I did and now I’m ranked 22 in the world, which is pretty crazy to me,” she told reporters.

“I feel, like, at this stage in my career, and playing the top players in the world, I realised I really need someone right now that has had that WTA Tour experience at the high levels, which means that I’m looking for someone who has been at that level and knows what it takes.

“And especially right now, because I’m so new to it,” Raducanu added. ”I really need someone to guide me who’s already been through that.”

While Raducanu does not yet have anyone in mind, it cannot have escaped her notice that Darren Cahill has just parted ways with Simona Halep, but she does not expect to make any decision until the end of the season.

The 30-minute programme is now available on BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport online, as well as the LTA’s social media channels.


The 30 minute Homecoming programme hosted by TV presenter Clare Balding can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport online, as well as on the LTA’s social media channels

© Julian Finney/Getty Images for LTA

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