Tennis pro Emil Raducanu: ‘I’d like to be better’

Written by Staff Writer, CNN

Emil Raducanu is no stranger to fame: The former world champion tennis player has rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in sport — including Roger Federer and Andre Agassi.

But after losing in the second round of Wimbledon to Donald Young last year, he never stepped foot on the famous All England Club court again.

Indeed, Raducanu never has, choosing instead to take an alternative route into show business. He hosts a chat show on Russian state TV channel RT (formerly Russia Today) and is now the co-host of Tennis with Emil Raducanu, which comes to the UK for the first time July 3.

“When I retired, I had a few years of stand-up comedy, and people in my circle loved my TV show. I still get nostalgic, really nostalgic when I travel around the world and see old stadiums. I get completely lost, and I’m happy to go there and let it all wash over me.”

But Raducanu’s decision to distance himself from his classic tennis roots still occasionally irks people.

After the defeat to Young last year, he said he’d “lost” his competitive spirit.

“It was done, and like I always say, I’m just looking to do new things — things that challenge me and help me out, you know, to get smarter and to build new relationships.”

He’s also a book salesman, specializing in children’s titles, and is a tennis analyst. He coaches junior tennis players at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida and teaches junior tennis camps in Italy and Russia.

“People think: How can this former No. 1 come out of nowhere to be a tennis expert? It’s only in my head,” Raducanu says.

One area Raducanu stays close to is the game of tennis teaching. He’ll often go on tour with Bollettieri, visiting around 60 countries each year.

“This amazing man has really helped shape me as a person, and that has nothing to do with being an ex-tennis pro. If that were the case, I wouldn’t go on tour with him.”

Raducanu has flown the flag for Russia in tennis since 1987, when he became the first Russian in 14 years to reach the semi-finals of the French Open. He also was the only player from outside North America to make it to the finals of the French and Australian Opens in 1990.

He enjoyed a golden period with Russia until he quit in 2004, reflecting his struggling country: “Tennis was not just a sport, it was a national tradition, a religion. I became part of the country, I became a member of the Russian community, which was the biggest challenge for me.”

His relationship with Bollettieri was also difficult. Raducanu chose to leave the Bollettieri Academy in the summer of 2003, saying it didn’t suit his temper. He told Sports Illustrated in 2009 that Bollettieri refused to run Raducanu’s program.

In 2009, when CNN asked Bollettieri about Raducanu’s comments, he simply said: “That’s not true.”

Raducanu goes into detail in his memoir, “In the Berendt Room,” about his experience at Bollettieri — despite becoming something of a cult hero among Russians in the years he trained with him.

It was there he learned his trade, creating four of the best rackets, winning multiple tournaments, and beating legends such as Federer and Jimmy Connors.

“He kept saying: ‘Do what you do, I’m not in the world of tennis and I don’t want you to complain’ and I didn’t do that.”

But several times during his career, he says Bollettieri “stuck a knife in my back.”

“I didn’t understand that [bollettieri] cared so much, that he could end my career,” Raducanu says.

They no longer talk, but Raducanu’s performance at Wimbledon is sure to provide an insight into the tennis coach.

His trademark heavy Slavic accent and emotional demeanor are often highlighted during his entertaining sketches on his TV show and on “The Tennis Hour” radio show.

“One show is going well. So far this year, things are going very well. It seems I’m making progress. So far, the rest is working out as it should. I’m happy.”

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