It used to be that Great Britain ruled the tennis universe.
The nation boasts 10 Davis Cup titles (though just one since 1936). Fred Perry won eight majors and the career Grand Slam in the pre-war years. Between singles and doubles, Virginia Wade won titles at all four majors in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
There’ve been others, too, of course, from Williams Renshaw and the Doherty brothers to Lottie Dodd and Ann Jones, right on up to Tim Henman and Andy Murray, who in 2013 finally put Mr. Perry’s ghost to rest when a captured the Wimbledon title, ending a 77-year dry spell for British men on the lawns of the All-England Club.
A resurgent Andy Murray (post hip surgeries) and 18-year-old sensation Emma Raducanu, who a few weeks back at the US Open became the first qualifier in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam singles title, have the U.K. in the spotlight once again. Luckily for fans in the Coachella Valley, both will be in action on Friday night at the BNP Paribas Open.
Following a first-round bye, Raducanu will open against Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus. She’ll be making her Indian Wells debut as a main-draw wildcard, and competing in just the fifth tour-level event of her career.
Murray says Raducanu, who’s jumped from No. 150 in the rankings before the US Open to No. 22, benefitted from a pause in the tennis schedule brought on by a global pandemic.
“Often what separates the elite athlete from that level just below is that ability to learn quickly and process the information,” he said. “Not everyone can do that. The last 18 months pre-Wimbledon, she didn’t really compete a whole lot, which maybe in some ways allowed her to make some technical changes to her game and develop that side of things. Usually, around that age, 17-, 18-year-olds are competing a lot. They’re on the junior tour competing and starting to feed into some senior tournaments, as well. Maybe that period gave her an opportunity to fix some things. She did seem to improve her serve and her forehand. She’s obviously a very smart woman.”
It’s been a whirlwind for Raducanu since she raised the trophy in Flushing Meadows. There was the Met Gala, a Bond movie premier, photo shoots, endorsement deals, etc. But she says it’s the post-match celebration in New York that sticks with her the most.
“The highlight was and always will be the night that I won,” said Raducanu. “After the match, we went back to the hotel, and it was just me and the team having a really nice meal and just chatting and reflecting on the past three weeks. For me, that’s always going to be the highlight, even though all the invitations were very cool.”
Raducanu has since cut ties with her coach, Andrew Richardson, and will be working on a temporary basis with the LTA’s Jeremy Bates until she identifies a new hire.
“While he’s here, he’s helping me out,” said Raducanu. “Going forward, I’m just going to wait and try to find the right person. I’m not going to rush into anything. I want to make sure I make the right decision.”
Murray, a 2009 finalist in Indian Wells, is also a wildcard recipient this year. The three-time major champion, 34, will face French lefthander Adrian Mannarino in his opening-round matchup on Friday. The Scotsman has long had a strong fan base, but since returning to the tour in earnest (due to pelvic injury he didn’t play from November 2019 through August 2020), there’s been a groundswell of support for the veteran, something he says hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“It’s been really nice. A lot of the tournaments I haven’t played in a number of years,” said Murray. “It’s great to have that support from the fans. It’s nice to have full crowds at the matches again. They’re just trying to encourage me to keep going. That’s what I’m going to do.”