I’ve worked with 10 tennis players who have been world No 1 and won dozens of Grand Slam singles titles between them.
I was Andre Agassi’s coach when he won Wimbledon in 1992, and watched Maria Sharapova thank me for helping her achieve the same thing on Centre Court, age 17, in 2004.
I’ve played a part in the careers of Monica Seles, Jim Courier, the Williams sisters and many more.
Emma Raducanu is Britain’s smiling meteor – but we should give her time to fulfil her potential
Suffice to say I know what it takes to become a serial Slam champion, and what magical blend is needed of raw talent, work ethic, physical ability, mental toughness, application and unquenchable desire to do better. Even when you’re already the best.
Britain’s smiling meteor, Emma Raducanu, won the US Open this month at a canter, but can I pronounce her an all-time great in the making? Holy mackerel, no! Sport is so much more complex.
I was as shocked as the next observer that Emma took that title with what seemed like supreme ease, not dropping a set as she became the first person in Slam history to win as a qualifier.
But I was impressed by Emma’s physicality in the final against Leylah Fernandez, who in her own right is a deeply impressive player.
But her former coach Nick Bollettieri said it is too early to pronounce her an all-time great
Emma’s mental control throughout her unprecedented feat was marvellous. She didn’t crack. She smiled and prevailed.
Her versatility was notable. The game is no longer just about keeping the ball in play, it’s about changing up, reacting to the strength in depth of the opposition. You have to come forward, you can no longer win with one style.
Emma does all the basics well, but eye-catching was her remarkable footwork. That’s the bedrock for everything else. Roger Federer has sublime talent and shots but the bedrock is in the footwork. Watch it, but you’ll need slo-mo.
Emma’s ability to strike difficult balls well was outstanding at this US Open. Striking a ball well is requirement 101 but consistently hitting back those tough shots: that marks you out. Those are the positives. But let’s also be realistic.
The 2020 French Open winner Iga Swiatek, for example, has struggled to win a second Slam
Raducanu’s next tournament, and next Slam, will be telling. We’ll see how she copes with fame, and having done something nobody has ever done before, and expectations she’ll keep doing it.
I can’t tell you with any honesty I know she’ll be a world-beater. I see the potential, and all sorts of positives, and I hope she continues to soar. But go easy, and let her breathe. Let her find her way.
Maria Sharapova, who arrived at my academy in Florida aged 8, was distinct from very young. Aged 11 or 12 she was running her own show, on court, desperate to get to work every day.
I’d arrive to take a session and she’d give me a look that said: ‘Let’s just get this frickin’ ball game started!’ Maria didn’t like a lot of talk. Everything was business for her. She was never satisfied, and to be a repeat champion is never to be satisfied.
Bollettieri said the 18-year-old US Open winner would be around a while – but urged patience
The Williams sisters were the same. They had physical abilities beyond compare, but it was focus, not letting outside distractions overtake you, that kept them so dominant for so long.
Asked to give Emma Raducanu advice, it would be simple: never be satisfied. Do more. When you’re satisfied is when people take you down. Keep aspiring to do things that people say cannot be done.
I’d also say: Jeļena Ostapenko, French Open (2017); Bianca Andreescu, US Open (2019); Iga Swiatek, French Open (2020).
Three players who won their first Slam singles titles in recent times having entered those tournaments as teenagers. And all still waiting for Slam No2. Emma’s going to be around a while I think. Be excited. And patient.