Emma Raducanu at Wimbledon: There will be ‘great expectations’ but ‘let’s give her time’

Emma Raducanu first burst into the spotlight at Wimbledon last year and hasn’t left it since
Venue: All England Club Events: June 27 – July 10
Cover: Live on BBC TV, radio and online with extensive coverage on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, Connected TVs and mobile app.

Emma Raducanu’s first Wimbledon since her US Open win is unlikely to be the place to dampen expectations.

She is Britain’s number one, Grand Slam winner and an obvious contender for center court billing.

The fact that she’s been struggling with injuries and hasn’t chosen a coach will do nothing to dampen the excitement – because that’s not how your home grand slam works.

“Wimbledon is all about you as a British player. How many newspapers, online sites, how many journalists are there,” Greg Rusedski, the former UK number one, told BBC Sport.

“We become very British-centred, especially when there’s someone who we think can win the title or has a chance of winning the title.

“With Emma and what she has achieved, there is great expectation.”

So how will she handle it and are we all – fans, media and their opponents – expecting too much?

What a difference a year makes

A year ago, a teenage British number 10 made her Wimbledon main draw debut with minimal fuss on Court 18.

The wildcard’s comeback from 4-1 down to win the opener followed by a 6-0 in set number two was noted, but back then the media and public had bigger names to follow for too much to think about it.

At the end of the second round, the 18-year-old was the only Brit left in the singles draw – the only Brit at the end of the third round.

And so, the spotlight was firmly on Emma Raducanu and the ‘high school senior to tennis star’ story captured the imagination and headlines as she reached the fourth round.

Her run ended when she ended her round of 16 match against Ajla Tomljanovic with breathing difficulties and later said the ‘whole experience’ of hurricane week had ‘caught up’ with her.

Just two months later came that incredible and magical US Open triumph, answering how she’s dealing with the pressure of the big event.

But that was an event without expectation. She was a qualifier back then, but now she’s a top 10 seed.

Rusedski urged everyone who watched her at Wimbledon to be patient: “Let’s give her time. This time will be the hardest.”

How is your fitness?

Emma Raducanu is being treated
Emma Raducanu’s last tournament was in Nottingham, where she retired with a side charge

Since her US Open win, Raducanu has been eliminated mid-game three times as a series of minor issues hampered her first full year on the WTA Tour.

She struggled with a blister on her racquet hand in her second-round loss at the Australian Open in January, retired with a leg injury in an opening-round match in Mexico in February, and bathed her blistered feet in surgical spirit in a Billie Jean King Cup tie in April and had a return edition in Madrid in May.

She also had Covid towards the end of last year, while her Wimbledon build-up was far from ideal after a side strain forced her to retire just seven games in their opening game at Nottingham. She then withdrew from Birmingham because of the issue and did not play at Eastbourne.

She has previously said that her physical issues are frustrating and that she is doing whatever it takes to overcome them.

It’s very possible that the natural process by which her body becomes more robust to cope with the rigors of touring life wouldn’t have garnered as much attention if her profile hadn’t skyrocketed with success at the US Open would.

The mother of three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray, Judy, pointed out earlier this month that her son experienced “a series of recurring physical issues” as he progressed from juniors to the Main Tour.

In an article in The Daily Telegraph, she wrote: ‘In particular, he suffered from many convulsions. His body was perfectly prepared for the demands of the lower rungs of the circuit, but not necessarily for the heavier hits, the longer, more rigorous rallies and tougher opponents he encountered on the Tour.

“What is becoming increasingly clear is that Raducanu’s body needs time to mature.”

Does their ranking really reflect their form?

If you subtract the 2,000 ranking points she won at the US Open, her ranking would be closer to 60 than 11.

Of course she won those points – and brilliantly at that – but they pushed her to a position that could be considered higher than the rest of her results would suggest is her “natural” ranking.

She has not won three matches in a row since her New York triumph and her two Grand Slam tournaments since then – the Australian Open and the French Open – ended in the second round.

With the ranking comes not only the expectations of the public, but also of the other players.

“It’s different when you’re someone who maybe has a goal on their back,” Raducanu, who was 338th at Wimbledon last year, said earlier this year.

“Everybody’s stepping up their game, wanting to play well, wanting to beat you, want to knock you out. That’s something I definitely learned on tour this year and just accepted.”

Do extrajudicial activities take up too much time?

Raducanu’s agent Max Eisenbud doesn’t think she’s going to be overwhelmed by commercial demands. He told the BBC’s Sports Desk podcast that IMG had done so “Millions of dollars left off the table” by limiting to a maximum of 18 sponsor days per year.

Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko, who won the French Open in 2017 as a 19-year-old, can relate to Raducanu and the whirlwind she still finds herself in, as she’s been featured on magazine covers, invited to glitzy events and populates her Instagram page with plugs for the nine big brands she has sponsorship deals with.

With a Grand Slam title come opportunities off the pitch too – some lucrative, some glamorous, all time-wasting.

“The good thing is that everyone at home knows you and everyone looks at you as an idol,” Ostapenko, 25, told BBC Sport.

“But the hard part was getting used to all that pressure, things are changing around you, everyone wants interviews, photoshoots, all those things, but you still have to practice at the same time.

“So it was really hard to get used to and everyone expected you to win every tournament.

“It took me some time to get used to it. I don’t think I was ready to win a Grand Slam at that early age because it’s every tennis player’s dream and if you achieve it at 19 you might lose a little bit of motivation as well.”

Tracy Austin, who won the US Open in 1979 as a 16-year-old, said she felt “pulled” by all the new demands.

“My world was turned upside down because, two days later, I was being pelted with contracts on every morning show in the United States,” said the American said the athletic department.

“I was just a teenager and everyone was trying to consume every part of my day and I just wanted to be a kid and just play tennis.”

Raducanu said last year that she would never cancel a workout or training session because of extra-judicial commitments, but she might still find herself being asked if her time is too tight.

Emma Raducanu
Emma Raducanu joined celebrities at the Met Gala days after her US Open triumph

Does it matter that she doesn’t have a coach?

Raducanu was unable to commit to a coach last year.

Nigel Sears was replaced by Andrew Richardson after last year’s Wimbledon, but Richardson’s contract was not renewed despite Raducanu’s success in New York.

Torben Beltz was appointed in November but went their separate ways in April. LTA Women’s Training Director Iain Bates has worked with Raducanu ever since.

Two-time US Open champion Austin suggested it could be good for Raducanu to potentially stick with one a little longer as she tries to cope with the sudden surge in her profile and rankings.

“There’s so much you have to deal with,” she said.

“You need a really good team around you that includes your family to make informed decisions. Does that really matter? will this help me Will this possibly ruin my career?

“I think it would be beneficial for Emma to find someone she’s very comfortable with and stay with them for a while so you can make a list. What do we have to work on? Where are the flaws? Where are they? the strengths? I need to improve both and just get that level of comfort personally.

Will she ever win a Grand Slam again?

Of course nobody can answer that.

Former Serena Williams manager Patrick Mouratoglou is among those predicting she still has plenty more big trophies to win, but former Britain number one John Lloyd had it best in his BBC commentary on Queen’s last week expressed:

“I don’t think she’s going to be a one-slam miracle – and if she is, so what? That’s pretty special too.”

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