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Tim Henman believes Emma Raducanu can survive glare of the Wimbledon spotlight

Emma Raducanu stretches before practice at Wimbledon on Friday (Adam Davy/PA)
Emma Raducanu stretches before practice at Wimbledon on Friday (Adam Davy/PA)

Tim Henman has given Emma Raducanu the wisdom of his experience as she prepares for the glare of the Wimbledon spotlight and has backed the US Open champion to thrive – fitness permitting.

Raducanu sparked more fears around her recovery from a side strain when she pulled out of a scheduled second practice session with Garbine Muguruza on Court One on Friday afternoon.

The 19-year-old’s camp had given a tentatively positive assessment of her hopes of being fit for the Championships on Thursday and did not allay fears of a setback, although Raducanu is expected to practise on Saturday, when she will also give a press conference.

It is the latest in a series of niggling injuries Raducanu has suffered since her extraordinary New York triumph as she tries to adjust to the demands of a sport in which she is already a global star.

Henman sat courtside during Raducanu’s run to the title at Flushing Meadows, sharing in her post-final celebrations, and he has been advising the teenager about how to cope with being the home star at Wimbledon.

The former British number one, who also shares a management company with Raducanu, told the PA news agency: “A lot of the same people that have looked after me are looking after her so I’ll always be there to help her and answer any questions that she’s got.

“But she’s got a wise head on young shoulders. She’ll embrace it. The one thing I just hope is she’s healthy. This game’s hard enough when you’re 100 per cent healthy, let alone if you’re trying to play with an injury.

“She’s had a difficult time. We have to be patient, and that’s not a very popular word at this time of year.

“When you are the centre of attention it’s really important you focus on the things you can control, and that’s your preparation and performance. What’s being said in the newspapers or on social media or television, you can’t control it so why worry about it.

“When you’re young and you haven’t had the experience that’s not always easy but, when I think of her mental fortitude with the way that she played in New York going through those 10 matches, she’s incredibly strong mentally.

“Her tennis ability is there for everyone to see. The challenge for her is to build up this physical robustness. But she’s 19, she’s got so many opportunities ahead of her.”

Tim Henman hosts HSBC's World of Opportunity Programme at Wimbledon showcasing the different career opportunities available in sport beyond the court
Tim Henman hosts HSBC’s World of Opportunity Programme at Wimbledon showcasing the different career opportunities available in sport beyond the court (HSBC)

While Henman, and Andy Murray after him, often bore the spotlight alone, Raducanu at least has company in the form of Murray and her fellow seeds Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans, and the performances of Jack Draper, Katie Boulter and Ryan Peniston, among others, on grass have been hugely encouraging.

Henman said: “When you looked at British tennis and the rankings over the last 20, 30, 40 years, I don’t think our return on investment has been good enough.

“But now I feel it’s really moving in the right direction. We’ve got better players who are leading the charge, and that really does create a feelgood factor.

“They’re role models, they’re important. I think the impact that Emma’s had on the sport in this country is huge, and that’s on the back of Murray winning Wimbledon. And it also instils belief.

“I was brought up being told that we’ve got the best tennis tournament in the world but no one’s there to compete. For me to start to change the mentality and the thinking around British tennis I think was important.”

Henman now serves on the committee at Wimbledon and was privy to the decision-making regarding the ban on Russian and Belarusian players that has dominated the build-up to the Championships.

Wimbledon officials have maintained that they had little choice having been told by the Government that players from the two countries could not compete under a neutral flag, as they have at other tournaments and will do at the US Open.

The ATP and WTA retaliated by stripping Wimbledon of ranking points, and Henman said: “It’s been very challenging.

Jack Draper has been showing his potential on grass
Jack Draper has been showing his potential on grass (Steven Paston/PA)

“With the directive guidance from Government, you could say one of the options was for the board to say to the Government actually we know better and we’re going to do something different.

“As a British institution that’s worked so closely with Government, every year but especially last year with the Covid restrictions, that wasn’t going to happen.

“Then you go down the route of asking the Russians and Belarusians to sign a declaration against the war and against the Putin regime, and that’s no doubt going to put them and their extended families at risk, and then your third option, which is horrible, is not to invite them. It’s been really, really hard.”

With the war in Ukraine showing no sign of ending, there is a possibility the ban may yet be extended in future years.

Tim Henman, left, with participants in HSBC's World of Opportunity Programme
Henman, left, with participants in HSBC’s World of Opportunity Programme (HSBC)

Henman said: “This decision is purely for 2022. When the Championships comes round in 2023 then all these elements will be looked at again.”

Alongside his Championships role, Henman also found time on Friday to run HSBC’s World of Opportunity Programme, which aims to educate young people about the career possibilities available within sport.

He said: “I’ve always been grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been given. When you look at this as an event, it’s very easy to think it’s a tennis tournament so the tennis players are the ones with the only opportunity but that’s not the case.”

:: Tim Henman was speaking through HSBC’s World of Opportunity Programme.

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