It seems like a lifetime ago – Emma Raducanu had been negotiating the three rounds of US Open qualifiers and Andrew Richardson was beginning to have a hunch.
Her first-round opponent in the main draw, World No. 14 Jennifer Brady, had withdrawn and he was beginning to think their stay in New York might be longer than expected.
They had a chat over the weekend before the tournament got off to a good start.
Coach Andrew Richardson played a key role in Emma Raducanu’s stunning US Open win
The Brit celebrated with the entire Raducanu team after winning the final on Saturday
“I said, ‘It will take a very good performance to beat you. If you keep performing the way you perform, someone is going to have to play really well,” he recalls. “After qualifying, I knew Emma’s level was extremely high.
‘Then you gain momentum. Players started seeing the results and started looking at you differently. At the same time, we never got ahead of ourselves, we just took care of what was in front of her every day.’
No coach has known Raducanu better than the former British Davis Cup player, and so Richardson found himself at the center of this extraordinary story.
When considering who would accompany her on what would be her longest journey from home, Raducanu and her parents decided to prioritize someone who would also make her feel comfortable.
It turned out to be a masterstroke and seven weeks later he has suddenly coached a Grand Slam champion despite a relative lack of tour-level experience – just like his player.
The 18-year-old hugged Richardson after beating Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 in New York
In the wake of her win on Saturday, there was the touching scene where she presented Richardson with her own trophy, as has become a tradition at the US Open.
Afterwards, the gentle giant, 47, recalled a journey that began when he spent two years polishing her game at Bromley Tennis Center before reaching her teens.
“I’ve known Emma and her parents for a long time, since she was 10,” he said. “The timing was that she was looking for a coach (Nigel Sears had stepped down after Wimbledon), and my availability with my family situation more or less coincided. She approached me and I was very happy to do it.’
Their road trip together took them to tournaments in California, Pennsylvania and Chicago before landing in New York.
“I’ve known Emma for a long time,” he explained. “She has many strengths: some you can see, some you can’t. For me the greatest power is the mind.
Raducanu’s (center) game was sharpened in Bromley under the guidance of Richardson (second from right)
The Brit was advised by Richardson’s good friend Tim Henman to stay in the moment
“I think a lot of it has to do with her upbringing, the core values. She’s always had that, I don’t think it can be coached. It’s about parenting and I think her parents should take a lot of credit.
“People should remember that while she played 10 games in New York, she qualified after five games in Chicago under difficult conditions and six games in Landisville, Pennsylvania.
“So she played 11 games in about 14 days when she came in here. The mental strength she has is really special. She has the ability to deal with adversity and compete, and then she has the technical strengths to go with it.”
Richardson doesn’t know what the future holds yet. Emma’s father Ian is known for his special view on coaching and likes to use a wide range of expertise. She may not have a conventional relationship with one mentor for an extended period of time.
Discussions are still to be held over the coming months. “No conversations, just enjoy,” said Richardson, whose emotional intelligence probably serves him better as a coach than as a player, in a career that saw him reach a 133rd ranking.
Former British Davis Cup player Richardson also praised Raducanu’s ‘special’ mental strength
“Of course, this is a moment that doesn’t happen often. So I’m going to enjoy it and I think she should too. I’m sure we’ll see what the plans are when we get back to England.’
He encouraged her to stick to a regular routine during the US Open and shut out the increasing shouting about what she was beginning to accomplish.
Richardson adopted his own lifestyle, eating breakfast at the same sandwich shop every morning and often dining in the evenings with Tim Henman, one of his best friends from play days. Henman, a former US Open semifinalist, also advised Raducanu to stay in the moment.
“While she is clearly aware of what she has done, she has been in this bubble with the team,” added Richardson. “So she could focus on tennis and not get caught up in some things at home.
“Her life has changed again, and helping the people she has around her will be very important. She has wonderful parents. She needs to be taken care of and a strong team needs to be around her to protect her.”