The Independent

Can Raducanu improve?

The teen queen has everything required to stay in the elite but boosting these attributes will help make her invincible

- MARK STANIFORTH

Emma Raducanu swept to victory at the US Open and instantly transforme­d herself into one of the hottest properties in world sport. But once the daytime TV talk show and Met Gala invitation­s have eased, how will the new British No 1 fare when she returns to the tennis court?

Here, we take a look at each area of her game and predict how Raducanu will be able to cement her place among the game’s elite.

Serve

Raducanu’s serve may not be considered her strongest asset, but its accuracy – at 72 per cent well above the tournament average in New York – and sheer variety combined to frustrate her opponents. Likewise, her average second serve speed of 92mph proved better than the majority of her rivals. Most importantl­y, her serve held up under pressure – culminatin­g in an ace to seal her improbable triumph.

Return

Raducanu’s return of serve is arguably her strongest asset. She attacks her opponents – most notable in the way she confronted the usually-aggressive Maria Sakkari in their semi-final, completely knocking the experience­d Greek player off her stride – taking the ball early and ramming it back over the net, generally down the line and with unrelentin­g depth. It was a tactic that the best players in the world proved unable to cope with.

Forehand

Raducanu’s forehand side might be the weaker of her two, but it was hardly found wanting at Flushing Meadows. The way she

jumped on it early, whipping balls cross-court or most likely down the line, was enough to give her the advantage in tight rallies, and consistent­ly frustrate those who target that side of her game as a potential area of weakness they can exploit. They were wrong.

Backhand

Her swishing, pistol-like backhand is undoubtedl­y Raducanu’s greatest asset, and she used it to devastatin­g effect in New York. Its range and accuracy often made a winner seem inevitable, as it kept her opponents off-balance and, allied to her almost permanent front-foot style, afforded her time to come around the shot and dispatch another winner.

Fitness

Doubts were inevitably raised over Raducanu’s ability to go the distance after her Wimbledon retirement, and she has subsequent­ly admitted it is an area in which she can still improve. But having won three matches in qualifying and swept her way through to the final, all without dropping a set, she has evidently answered those broader doubts in the best way possible. Now ensconced in the elite, Raducanu’s fitness levels can only continue to improve.

Experience

In recent years, numerous young female players have ascended to grand slam titles only to struggle to sustain their momentum.

The biggest challenge for Raducanu is to adapt her game when faced with those who will now be all too aware of the skills that she possesses. With so few evident areas of weakness, Raducanu looks in a strong position to continue her remarkable success. But the psychologi­cal factor is sure to be scrutinise­d as soon as she sheds her Met Gala finery and sets foot back on court.

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 ?? (AP) ?? Reach for the sky: Emma Raducanu holds aloft the US Open trophy
(AP) Reach for the sky: Emma Raducanu holds aloft the US Open trophy
 ?? (AP) ?? Crucia ll y, Raducanu’s second serve he l d up under pressure at F l ushing Meadows
(AP) Crucia ll y, Raducanu’s second serve he l d up under pressure at F l ushing Meadows
 ?? (AP) ?? Raducanu attacks her opponent’s serve and none cou l d cope with the tactic
(AP) Raducanu attacks her opponent’s serve and none cou l d cope with the tactic
 ?? (AP) ?? Her forehand side is arguab l y her weaker, but opponents fai l ed to exp l oit it
(AP) Her forehand side is arguab l y her weaker, but opponents fai l ed to exp l oit it
 ?? (AP) ?? The teenager’s ‘pistol - like’ backhand is simply devastatin­g
(AP) The teenager’s ‘pistol - like’ backhand is simply devastatin­g
 ?? (AP) ?? How will Raducanu cope now that elite players are all too aware of her ski ll s?
(AP) How will Raducanu cope now that elite players are all too aware of her ski ll s?
 ?? (AP) ?? Her fitness was questioned after Wimb l edon but 10 victories in New York answered those doubts
(AP) Her fitness was questioned after Wimb l edon but 10 victories in New York answered those doubts

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