The Portsmouth player who shared Grand Slam dreams and Wimbledon visits with his former tennis doubles partner - US Open winner Emma Raducanu

The memories of sharing visits to SW19 are still vivid.

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 11:56 am
US Open winner Emma Raducanu is a former doubles partners of Pompey defender Liam VIncent (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The same can be said of the days of teaming up with his mixed doubles partner, to represent their county and region against some of the country’s brightest tennis talent.

They spent time together watching their heroes at Wimbledon, and battling for supremacy on the same side of the net for Kent and the south east.

And last weekend Liam Vincent saw his childhood friend Emma Raducanu stun the sporting world to claim US Open victory, becoming the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title.

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The 18-year-old became the first Brit woman to win a Grand Slam singles title in 44 years in the process, with her Flushing Meadows success arriving without dropping a set.

But for the Pompey defender, Raducanu is simply the humble little girl and playing partner from the Parklangley Club in south east London.

‘We used to play together,’ Vincent explained of his relationship with the teenage star.

‘We’re from the same area and we used to play a lot of tennis when we were younger, before I went over to football.

Pompey defender Liam Vincent. Picture: Portsmouth FC

‘Me and Emma went to Parklangley and used to play there quite a bit.

‘I first started playing with her when I was about seven or eight, and she was always quite good even then.

‘We had the same coach until we were around 11 and then she went to Bromley Tennis Centre and continued to do it seriously.

‘We played together a couple of times for our county, Kent and the south east.

‘We played doubles together and were involved in team stuff quite a bit.

‘She was a nice girl, really humble and things then started to take off for her while I started to get into football more.

‘I remember going to Wimbledon with her when we were about eight or nine, too.

‘Our coach took me, another boy and Emma to Wimbledon for the day.

‘So to now see her play at Wimbledon and win the US Open is crazy.’

They may have spent their formative years chasing the same dream, but Vincent’s journey was to take him into football’s paid ranks at Pompey as Raducanu became a tennis professional after a decorated junior career.

The 18-year-old has still closely followed the progress of the daughter of Romanian and Chinese parents, however, as he continues his own path towards making the sporting grade.

Vincent added: ‘Emma was always talented and I’ve always known how she was developing, because back at home I still use the same osteopath from her team.

‘So I’ve always known how she’s doing and it’s unbelievable what happened, especially to come back from what happened at Wimbledon (where she reached the fourth round before being forced to retire though breathing difficulties).

‘For me, when I went to secondary school I didn’t get into the one I wanted to which focussed more on tennis.

‘I ended up going to one which played football more and all the other sports, so that’s how I drifted away from it and played football more.

‘Then when I was 15 I got rejected by Millwall so did my scholar at Bromley it and went from there really.

‘It’s probably been a year since I picked up a racket, but even last year I played a bit locally.

‘But for Emma it’s been brilliant. It’s just happened so fast for her and it’s been crazy to watch.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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