STARNBERG, July 12, 2022 (Guest Post)
British rising tennis star Emma Raducanu became the first qualifier to win the US Open. A fairytale ending to the fourth Grand Slam of the previous year stands out as the pinnacle of her achievements. Raducanu entered a rare company of Grand Slam winners. A step into the tennis elite created enormous expectations for upcoming British tennis hopes. Those expectations were not met in a year following her huge success.
Early Wimbledon exit
Raducanu entered the most significant global tournament Wimbledon as a 10th seed. Again, the British public had a huge expectation for their number 1. Raducanu performed well last year at Wimbledon as a wildcard. She went into the last 16, where she retired from the match against Ajla Tomljanovic due to breathing difficulties.
Now, after the US Open title, home fans wanted to repeat the success story. She started well in the first round with a 6-4 6-4 victory over Alison Van Uytvanck. The next match was on Centre Court, but French Caroline Garcia won convincingly 6-3 6-3.
More realistic expectations from bookmakers
Fans are short of fanatics, so we don’t expect them to have rational demands from athletes. But, for Raducanu, winning the US Open was a huge surprise, knowing she began the year well behind 300 on the WTA list.
A bright moment for a still inexperienced player had a negative effect on later appearances. Bookmakers had realistic expectations before Wimbledon, where Raducanu was not among favourites for an audience that bet on tennis online. What are the issues the British number one faces?
Series of injuries and early exits
Raducanu finished all three Grand Slam tournaments after triumphing early with second-round exits. On top of that, Raducanu retired three times during the matches because of minor injuries. Her first year on tour was a mix of enormous success and a series of underperformance and injuries.
A blister on her racquet hand bothered her in the Australian Open, where she lost in the second round. Next month in Mexico, Raducanu had to retire with a leg injury in the opening round.
Emma had issues with blisters while playing at a Billie Jean King Cup and back issues in Madrid. The health issues build up before Wimbledon. Raducanu exited the Nottingham tournament in the opening match, and then she skipped the Birmingham and Eastbourne tournaments.
After a few days of uncertainty, Raducanu announced she would participate in Wimbledon, but her run in the All England Club was short-lived.
Going pro is never easy
There is a massive difference between ITF Pro Circuit and WTA Tour tournaments. The level of competition and the toll on the body is different. So while some tennis pundits like Piers Morgan and Kevin Pietersen had harsh criticism after Raducanu failed to meet the public expectations, a voice of reason came from the mother of Andy Murray. She noted that Andy also struggled with injuries once he joined the ATP tour.
Former British tennis ace Greg Rusedski also spoke about the pressure British players face at Wimbledon. But, of course, all the spotlights are on home players, and expectations for all talented tennis players are enormous.
The real rankings
If we look at the US Open as an exception and the 2000 points she won at Flushing Meadows, Raducanu’s current ranking would be around 60th place on the WTA Tour. While Raducanu did win those points fairly with great play, her other WTA Tour and Grand Slam appearances point to the lower-ranking player.
Before last year’s Wimbledon, Raducanu was ranked 338, and the meteoric rise to the 11th spot on the women’s rankings brought some unexpected difficulties. However, experienced tennis players and coaches say that Raducanu needs time to adjust, and she could display her full talent once more when nagging injuries go. Even if she stays with “just one” Grand Slam title, it’s much more than most players ever succeed.
Another aspect some players struggle with after major success is commercial obligations. Sponsors flock to meet the British Grand Slam winner, but making a schedule for training and an abundance of sponsor-related events is not easy. Raducanu doesn’t miss practices for sponsorship events, which is the correct way. However, it’s not all ideal in training sessions.
Raducanu replaced coach Nigel Sears after Wimbledon last year. With Andrew Richardson as her coach, Raducanu won in New York, but his contract was not renewed. From November to April, Raducanu worked with Torben Beltz, and since then, Emma has been training with Iain Bates. For more consistency and better court results, staying longer with one coach would be better.
While Raducanu still looks for the US Open form and health, former Serena Williams coach Patrick Mouratoglou thinks said that she can win more big trophies in her career.