'Watford-esque' Raducanu Needs To Find Stability To Become A Great - John Lloyd

The former British number one tells The Sportsman that the US Open champ must find a long-term coach
19:00, 29 May 2022

John Lloyd has urged new British tennis star Emma Raducanu to avoid the pitfalls he experienced during his own colourful professional career, likening her regular changes of coach to relegated Premier League club Watford.

A three-time Grand Slam winner, Lloyd was the original poster boy of British tennis. The former British number one and Davis Cup captain has been there and got the t-shirt at the highest level. He narrowly missed out on the Australian Open crown back in 1977, but played alongside some of the greats of the game including Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connor.

And for eight years he was one half of tennis’s golden couple having married Chris Evert, one of the most successful and famous tennis superstars of the time. But Lloyd, now 67, is worried Britain’s latest tennis hope Raducanu has to deal with the weight of expectation to a whole new level.

“It’s quite staggering what Emma’s achieved, it’s beyond belief,” reflects Lloyd, who has worked closely with British stars Sir Andy Murray, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski. “It’s a different level to the pressure I ever experienced as a player.

“I don’t know her but I have friends who do, though, and they tell me she’s really got her head on her shoulders – and she knows what she’s doing. I think she’ll be able to handle it.

“You’ve got to be careful. She looks good, but there’s a lot of piranhas on the circuit – they’re out for blood. If you show weaknesses, trust me, they’re going to exploit it.

“She’s tough, Emma, but so often the second season is the toughest one, and it’s showing right now. The expectation on her is huge, she’s going to have a lot of challenges ahead, that’s for sure. But whatever happens, nobody can take away that she’s a Grand Slam winner. And I don’t believe it’s a flash in the pan.

“However, I do believe she’s got to sort a few things out if she’s going to continue her great success.”

RADUCANU MADE TENNIS HISTORY BY WINNING THE US OPEN AS A QUALIFIER IN 2021
RADUCANU MADE TENNIS HISTORY BY WINNING THE US OPEN AS A QUALIFIER IN 2021

Raducanu shot to fame when she shocked the world in winning the US Open last March. But the 19-year-old’s overnight success has understandably heaped more pressure on her young shoulders.

“The tennis movies that have been made over the years have been terrible, they’d focus on the Rocky theme, where a guy would come out of nowhere and win Wimbledon,” says Lloyd, whose fascinating autobiography, DEAR JOHN, is published on Monday.

“I read the script of the film Wimbledon because I knew one of the agents of Paul Bettany, who was the star of it. She [the agent] asked me what I thought of it and I said it was absolute rubbish. I just said it was stupid and it would never happen.

“They made it and the movie sucked, but with Emma it’s actually happened. She was Rocky and won the tournament, which was incredible. No one saw that happening in a million years, but she did it.

“But there’s a few mistakes coming now and, I’ve got to be honest, the turnaround of coaches is not good. I’m not sure how many of these changes are coming from her, I find that hard to believe. I don’t think they are doing her any favours.

“I think the changes are coming from other places. Some people have said publicly, to justify the changes, that she’s learning from lots of different coaches. For me that’s a load of nonsense because you want to find a coach who you can be on the same level with, you don’t want to be going to different coaches, with different ideas, trying a new technique every few months. That does not work.”

LLOYD'S NEW BOOK IS OUT ON MONDAY
LLOYD'S NEW BOOK IS OUT ON MONDAY

Raducanu has parted company with two coaches already since her stunning US triumph, when she became the first British woman to claim a Grand Slam title since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977.

“There has to be a loyalty with a coach, and a coach who knows you well and you trust that person,” stresses Lloyd. “You need that because this game is not just on the court, it’s the mental side off the court. It’s what goes on in the conversations the night before matches and the morning of the match.

“If you’re jumping around every few months with a different coach, sorry, but I don’t buy what’s happening there. What she doesn’t want to happen – and it’s becoming that way – is becoming known as the Watford of the tennis circuit.

“I think she should have stuck with [former coach] Nigel Sears after winning the three rounds at Wimbledon and then she should have definitely stuck with Andrew Richardson after she won the US Open.”

Winning Wimbledon is the holy grail for any British tennis star, with Murray's two triumphs in SW19 firmly cementing his name in tennis history.

But Lloyd is adamant that if Raducanu reaches the quarter-finals of this year’s tournament, she will have done a great job.

“She’s still on a big learning curve,” adds Lloyd. “I know she’s won a Grand Slam, but it was a freak. It was a great freak, but you can’t expect that to continue on. It’s going to take time just learning the ropes. The expectation and publicity on her now, it’s going to be an absolute jungle at Wimbledon.

“I think Emma has definitely got more Slams in her, but is she going to win 10 slams like some of the greats of the game? Right now I’d say ‘no’ because winning 10 Slams is brutal. I wouldn’t put her at that level, but I do think she will win more Slams.

“She’s a rookie at the moment, her body hasn’t adjusted yet.

“It all came together magnificently to win the US Open, but now it’s settled back to reality and there’s a lot of building up to do. It’s going to take a lot of time to see how far she can push her body and see what she can achieve.”

DEAR JOHN, The John Lloyd Autobiography, is published by Pitch Publishing on May 30, £19.99 

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