Growing pains of Emma Raducanu
AS Wimbledon fortnight gets underway, I feel it pertinent to remind everyone to exercise patience with regard to British No.1 Emma Raducanu.
I have heard it suggested that since her sensational US Open win in September last year, Raducanu has taken her eye off the ball, so to speak.
Critics point to her slew of injuries, the hiring and firing of coaches and the number of sponsorship endorsements she has signed, which have pulled her away from the court, as evidence of such.
With regards to injuries, by her own admission Raducanu has had a “really tricky 12 months”.
Since contracting Covid in December, she has battled with a bad back, hip problems, blisters and last week a side strain.
However, it would be wrong to think that her fitness concerns are down to a lack of conditioning or training.
Tracy Austin, who remains the youngest winner of the US Open, recently spoke about how Raducanu’s body will have always needed time to adjust to the new demands of playing on the WTA circuit.
Before her Grand Slam win, Raducanu (above) had played just three tour level events before being catapulted from 345th in the world at the start of that year, to 11th in the world rankings now.
The WTA circuit is much more demanding on the body and her teenage frame will need time to adjust.
When looking at her coaching, conventional wisdom may suggest that Raducanu would be better served by a consistent voice – but that doesn’t seem her team’s style. The Raducanu camp have a reputation for hiring coaches, squeezing the maximum information out of them, then moving on.
This has led to three coaching changes since she was last at Wimbledon and now she is left with no conventional full-time coach.
But who are we to argue with that tactic? She did win the US Open just nine months ago at the age of 18 after all – so it’s hard to say they are going about their business completely wrong. Horses for courses and all that.
With regards to her endorsement deals, by tying herself to superagent Max Eisenbud, Emma has made a very shrewd move, not just for her bank balance but also for her tennis.
Eisenbud was responsible for monetising Maria Sharapova’s 2004 Wimbledon win when she was just 17 and also Li Na’s first Grand Slam win in 2011, which was watched by 118 million Chinese viewers.
In a recent interview, Eisenbud spoke about his tried and tested formula, which limits Emma’s filming days to just 18 a season.
Those days are never in the week before a tournament, during a tournament, or in the four days following a tournament – allowing her tennis to continue to be the priority. So she seems in experienced hands.
I don’t see the signs that Emma Raducanu isn’t operating any other way than as expected, and in time, more success should come.
But we must exercise some patience while she finds her feet at this new level of competition and stardom.