Emma Raducanu's coaching change: Ruthless or rash? Will Darren Cahill or Patrick Mouratoglou follow Andrew Richardson?
Emma Raducanu made a surprise move as she cut ties with Andrew Richardson, who was with her at the US Open. Is it the right decision and who will her next coach be? Raducanu, 18, may appear next at Indian Wells as she aims to secure the ranking points that could earn her a place at the season-ending WTA Finals.
Kate Middleton shows off tennis skills as she plays with US Open champ Emma Raducanu
“As I'm so new to it, I think I really need someone just to guide me who has already been through that themselves,” she said about the decision to part ways with Andrew Richardson, who was hired for the summer tournaments in the United States.
On the face of it, making such a change after such a successful summer seems a ruthless decision. Yet it is not an entirely surprising one.
Richardson himself said soon after the US Open that there would be discussions when they returned to London. Given his limited experience he must have suspected that after such a huge win Raducanu would look elsewhere, especially as she disposed of former coach Nigel Sears in similar fashion after her impressive run at Wimbledon earlier in the summer.
Richardson, 47, is a former professional tennis player whose most notable achievement was reaching the third round of Wimbledon in 1997. He is a close friend of Tim Henman, who chose Richardson to be best man at his wedding, and has coached several other British players, including Ross Hutchins and Alan Mackin. But over the last month he has been in the spotlight like never before, not just because at 6ft 7in he isn’t exactly inconspicuous in the coaching box.
And while there’s a mantra in some sports to never change a winning team, Richardson seemed very aware after the US Open that there could be a shake-up.
Her life has changed again now, and moving forward, people that she has around her are going to be really important. She's got great parents and she's going to have to be looked after and have a strong team around her and protect her.
Raducanu admits the decision was difficult. “Obviously having such an experience with your team, it's tough to have that conversation with anyone, but I think for me it's just really what I need.” But Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou seemed to suggest he thought it was the right call. “Young Emma Raducanu...really impressed me. But now the 'crap' starts,” he told AFP on Friday.
One argument for keeping Richardson is that as Raducanu’s life is changing so fast at the moment, her coach could have remained a constant. Richardson first worked with Raducanu when she was 11 years old and it has been reported that he was hired for the seven-week trip to the USA because they know each other well and he would be a comfortable presence. Is that not something that could be beneficial as Raducanu possibly heads to her first WTA 1000 event in Indian Wells next month and maybe even the WTA Finals later in the year? Instead she will either be without a coach for the rest of the season or have to quickly go through the process of hiring a new one, while trying to accomplish the very difficult task of backing up her US Open success.
It is thought that Raducanu’s father, Ian, has played a large role in previous coaching decisions. “I found him good to deal with,” former British No 1 Mark Petchey told the Telegraph. “His outlook on tennis is wide ranging and he is happy to think outside the box. As a coach, he challenges you. His view is the coach does not necessarily know everything. I thought he had a good handle on what the particular needs of his daughter were.”
Having made a massive jump from 150 in the WTA rankings to No 23 over the last month, Raducanu is going to need help navigating the new world she is now in. That is why a move does make sense. Off the court she appears well set as a client of IMG, who have previously worked with stars such as Maria Sharapova, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, but on the court she doesn’t have top-level experience around her.
Andrew Richardson at the US Open
Image credit: Getty Images
The obvious candidate for the role would be Darren Cahill, who has just split with Simona Halep after six years of working together. Halep reached world No 1 and won the French Open and Wimbledon during her time with the Australian, who definitely fits the bill in terms of “high level” experience. Cahill has also worked with Ana Ivanovic and Daniela Hantuchova, as well as Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Murray. Whether he would be able to provide year-round support for Raducanu is unclear, given he has other involvements, including working as an analyst for ESPN.
There’s also Mouratoglou, who may have more time on his hands as Williams’ career seemingly nears its conclusion. He had a six-month spell with Laura Robson in 2011 and also works with Stefanos Tsitsipas and Coco Gauff, as well as helping to run the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in France. Johanna Konta’s coach Esteban Carril may also be an option. He helped Konta rise from outside the top 100 in the world to the top 10 and previously worked with the Lawn Tennis Association. He has also played a small part in helping to develop Raducanu’s game, according to Petchey, who said recently that he consulted with him for “work on the forehand grip and also the serve”.
Part of the intrigue with Raducanu's next move is that there is no blueprint to follow, given how quickly her success has come. There have been plenty of first-time Grand Slam winners over the past few years; most have stuck with their coaches - Iga Swiatek's coach Piotr Sierzputowski was named 2020 WTA Coach of the Year after she won the French Open - while some, such as Bianca Andreescu and Sofia Kenin, have made a change after struggling to hit the same heights. It will be interesting to see what qualities Raducanu deems of most importance when she does hire her next coach. She described Richardson as a “calming character” who was good at “relaxing and reassuring” her. Is that what she wants in her next coach? Or does she want someone who perhaps will push her more?
Simona Halep of Romania poses with her coach Darren Cahill after winning the Chris Evert WTA World No.1 trophy
Image credit: Getty Images
For now Raducanu is balancing finding a new coach with planning her scheduling for the rest of the year. She is currently only entered in qualifying for Indian Wells because the event closed its entry list well before the US Open, but it is expected she would be able to get a wild card. The ranking points available at the tournament could give her a chance to challenge for a place at the end-of-season WTA Finals in Mexico, especially with uncertainty over whether Ashleigh Barty and Osaka will play. “I will decide in the next few days where I’m going to go next. I haven’t had that much time to switch off and rest,” she said last week.
“Wherever I play next, I’m going to make sure I’m ready. I don’t want to jump into things too early.”
Could the same be said of her coaching switch? Or is Raducanu making the right move at the right time?