Emma Raducanu dazzles in Romania after flying out on a budget airline and addressing the crowd in their language as the US Open champion prepares to return to action in Cluj… but British No 1 is still without a coach
- Emma Raducanu impressed the crowd during practice in her native Romania
- The British No 1 will play on Tuesday against Slovenian veteran Polona Hercog
- Raducanu has been without a coach since splitting from Andrew Richardson
Emma Raducanu was only practising, but first there was a Mexican wave and then came her addressing the crowd of several hundred in their native Romanian.
The US Open champion was already causing enough excitement in these parts since arriving — via budget airline on Friday night — and those at the BT Arena were further seduced when she took the microphone after yesterday’s hitting session.
‘The thing is I can understand like 80 per cent of Romanian,’ she said, having told the assembly how pleased she was to be here.
British No 1 Emma Raducanu impressed the crowd during practice in her native Romania
‘I don’t want to big myself up, I just really struggle to find my words. When I got told about doing this thing at the end of practice, at the changeovers I was just thinking of my vocab.’
Having displayed her talent for speaking her mother’s native tongue of Mandarin in New York, it is no surprise that, despite being just 18, she can reel off another language.
The connection is her father Ian and childhood trips to see her grandmother Niculina.
The day-long journey north from the capital is too taxing for Niculina and she will be unable to see her multi-talented grand-daughter in action.
Raducanu is set to return to action on Tuesday against Slovenian veteran Polona Hercog
Not only that but Covid restrictions introduced today in response to Europe’s fastest-rising case numbers mean no spectators will be allowed in from now on.
Raducanu still plans to see Niculina, but not until the week’s business is over.
‘I will definitely visit her after the tournament. I haven’t seen her for two-and-a-half years,’ said Raducanu, who is expected to play tomorrow against Slovenian veteran Polona Hercog.
‘I used to come once or twice a year to visit my grandmother in Bucharest. I always love coming back. The people are really friendly, there’s also great food.
‘My personal favourite is sarmale (Romanian cabbage rolls). When I come back my grandma makes it, at home it is not the same.’
This will be the first time that Ian will watch his daughter play in person since Wimbledon.
He has been in the stadium this weekend keeping a low profile and, like his daughter, seems more relaxed about her coaching situation than outsiders are.
Melding into the crowd, he was polite and friendly as he looked on but declined to give interviews, including to the many local media who made requests.
This is quite a homecoming for him although, like Emma, he has never been to Cluj before. It is 25 years since he left Bucharest for Toronto, where he spent around eight years before moving on to London when his daughter was two years old.
Raducanu is currently ranked 24th after her heroics in the US Open in September
While he is happy to leave the attention to her, he is the central figure in her career and in no rush to appoint one particular voice to supervise his daughter’s training.
Emma confirmed that she had been doing trial sessions with Spaniard Esteban Carril, but stated that others were also under consideration. Instead of being here this week, Carril will be at a small event in Estonia with fellow Brit Katie Swan, with whom he had a prior agreement to travel.
Asked who was coaching her this week, Raducanu said simply ‘myself’. She knows that there is no substitute for self-sufficiency, adding: ‘You are out there on the court on your own, so it’s great to be independent. You get to coach yourself. In the long term, if you keep doing that you will be better in situations.’
On a similar theme, she eschewed the lure of a private jet to make it to a place that has few easy travel routes, and instead took Wizz Air from Luton Airport. However, she did avoid the half-term crowds by getting a special VIP passage through departures to the aircraft.
This relatively intimate £180,000 event ought to be more comfortable for her than the much bigger tournament at Indian Wells which saw her lose in the first round on her reappearance after the US Open.
There is some consolation that the player who beat her, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, went on to defeat this week’s top seed, Simona Halep.
‘I didn’t have much expectations going into Indian Wells,’ reasoned Raducanu. ‘My reflection on the performance was that I was quite tired and I think I was still a bit jetlagged. When you are not in great form yourself, the level is just too high to get away with it.
‘Sasnovich ended up having a good tournament herself. Now I have had a good training week at home, so I am looking forward to this last swing of the season.’
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