Home Kent News Emma Raducanu’s early coach opens up about Kent star’s gifted childhood

Emma Raducanu’s early coach opens up about Kent star’s gifted childhood

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Original article from Kent Live

Emma Raducanu has taken the tennis world – and the UK as a whole – by storm, winning her first grand slam in only her second major tournament appearance, all at the age of just 18.

The talented young woman has become a star almost overnight – having only just finished her A-Levels.

She may have been born in Canada, but Raducanu's childhood was very much in Kent, seeing her rise to stardom start at the Parklangley Tennis Club in Beckenham, which she joined at the age of 6.

Read more: The Moment Emma Raducanu became US Open champion as seen by her Kent club

The entire country has come together to celebrate Emma's incredible showing in the US open – but nobody is more proud than her childhood coach, Harry Bushnell, who trained the tennis prodigy until she left the Parklangley club at 11.

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When asked whether he'd gotten in contact with his old student, who lives in nearby Bromley, Harry wryly said, "I've sent her a few messages of congratulations – but I haven't spoken to her, I appreciate she's probably not got her phone on!"

It was well over twelve years ago since he first met Emma, but her former coach remembered her being quite a different person to the confident and self-assured athlete she is today:"She didn't say much back then, she was so quiet.

"You'd ask her a question – and I'm quite animated when I coach, very theatrical – and she'd just stand there looking at me probably thinking 'what is this guy talking about?'

Harry Bushnell, who coached Emma Raducanu when she was just 6.

"I'd say something like 'do you understand Emma?' – and she would just nod!"

Harry continued that this shyness wasn't the only lasting impression Emma left on him, though:

"Whilst she didn't say much… I don't know – she was still quite vibrant, she stood out.

"She's definitely different to the other children I've coached – I don't mean that in a derogatory way at all.

Emma Raducanu has come a long way since her time at Parklangley as a child – but her victory has left an impression on her old club

"She stands out now still around the player's she's around – some unbelievable athletes and very famous tennis players – but there's just something about her and I'd say it's always been there."

When asked whether he could have predicted such an explosive rise to fame and brilliance from his former pupil, Bushnell said:

"I mean I did think she would go on to be a very, very good player.

"Did I ever think she was gonna win the US Open aged 18 having played two grand slams on only her second tour level event?

"Of course I did!" he chuckled.

"I didn't really – but here we're very much about the tennis and sport, and we love to see the kids on our performance program develop and be successful in whatever they do."

"I thought that would be the case with her – I always got the sense that she would be very successful."

At age 18, Raducanu became the first British woman to win a major tournament title since 1977

Harry doesn't see Parklangley as a mill for elite child-star athletes, though – saying how lucky the club was to see a talent like Emma pass through their youth system:

"I think we're humbled by the whole experience – we feel privileged that we get these crop of youngsters in that are attracted to our club on a regular basis.

"You know, we may not get another grand slam champion, but what we will certainly do is everything we can to put them on the right path like we did with Emma"

In fact, as we were taking photos of Harry for this piece, another young starlet was about to start a training session – Sara Nicholle Vasilache, aged just 8 – who was there with her dad.

If Emma's success is anything to go by, maybe that's a name worth jotting down.

Harry Bushnell alongside young tennis player Sara-Nicholle Vasilache, who's just 8 years old.

Emma's rise to the US Open title was carried out near-faultlessly, not dropping a single set throughout the tournament, despite playing 10 games including qualifying matches, making her run to the final much longer than those she faced in the later rounds.

Watching the final it was apparent that her talent was almost mercurial – always doing something slightly unexpected, predicting her opponent and playing some truly stylish shots, even sealing the title with a blistering ace off her final serve.

"She's always been a bit of a shot maker," reflected Bushnell.

"Even at 10, maybe 9 years of age, she always performed well under pressure, and that's why I think it's so surprising when she comes up with those shots.

"You're expecting it to maybe be a little bit cagey, or end with an unforced error because the pressure is too much."

"She's just so good at putting that all to one side and staying in the present."

"She's just pretty cool isn't she?"

The club has changed quite a bit since Emma was last year as a player being coached – as recent resurfacing of the indoor courts and the addition of clay courts has brought valuable new assets that will benefit the next generation of players.

Parklangley has expanded since Emma Raducanu attended, adding clay courts and refurbishing the indoor court area

It's clear the community spirit is alive at the club, and as Harry walked through the tennis centre, several players and staff members said hello and had a quick chat.

But watching Emma Raducanu fire her way to such an unlikely but thoroughly earned victory stands to supercharge Parklangley's reputation, and was an emotional moment for Harry, to say the least.

"It was just so overwhelming and…. it just made it all worthwhile – I'm just so happy for her first and foremost."

Overnight the energy at her old tennis club changed:

"It was electric down here on Saturday (September 11) night – I mean I was exhausted from playing every shot with her – and there were a few sore heads from all the champagne and beer," Harry reflected.

Raducanu's old club was a scene of utter delirium after her historic win

"But then I came down on Sunday (September 12) and there just seems to be this buzz around the place."

For Emma's old stomping grounds, the future looks bright, and Harry hopes the media attention around her historic victory will translate into more growth – and more importantly more young people playing tennis.

"I think it's obviously propelled us to another level – we've got a nice rich history of producing players, but this takes Parklangley down a slightly different avenue now.

"Hopefully this will see the club evolve even more – we are gonna need some help from the local authorities because we're already reaching capacity, but we've always been an evolving club."

Original Article