Last season, Emma Raducanu was what Carlos Alcaraz is now: the undisputed star of the tennis scene.
The Spaniard won the Masters in Miami in April at the age of 18, the British achieved even more extraordinary things in 2021: Raducanu triumphed at the US Open at the same age – as the first qualifier since the Open Era began in 1968 and without losing a set.
While Alcaraz very quickly followed the next cup that the Masters won for Madrid, beating Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev one after the other, Raducanu went downhill. Understandable for an 18-year-old who before his greatest success was number 150 in the world and was primarily known by insiders.
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Still, it is somewhat astonishing that Raducanu has only won nine out of 21 matches since the US Open, her only top-level title to date. One reason is the high susceptibility to injury for such a young player, which slowed her down significantly as a junior. In the professional sector, this has hardly gotten any better.
At the Australian Open, blisters got in the way. In February, the teenager gave up his first round match at the Guadalajara Open due to a hip injury and skipped the follow-up tournament in Monterrey. Most recently, Raducanu was slowed down by a back injury in Madrid, so in Rome she had to give up her first match against Bianca Andreescu as the score was 2-6, 1-2.
Raducanu: “Results not so important”
However, the physical problems can not satisfactorily explain why it no longer runs. The abrupt end to the collaboration with coach Torben Beltz, for example, is a point that raised questions. Why the separation after just five months from a recognized top coach who once led Angelique Kerber to two Grand Slam titles? She appreciated “the good chemistry” but wanted to switch to a different training model, as the 12th world number 12 announced something foggy. She is currently working with interim coach Iain Bates.
Raducanu, meanwhile, stressed not to be put off by the poor results over the past few months. “The results are not that important to me. I believe my tennis has evolved further,” the 19-year-old told Sport Bild. The US Open winner explained that this is not yet reflected in the results with a corona infection at the beginning of the year. Then she had to “get in shape quickly. There were physical problems.”
Huber sure: “Raducanu needs another year or two”
There is also another factor that comes into play, which mainly has to do with the competition. “The opponents are more motivated towards me, they really want to beat me,” the Briton reported – and she is certainly right.
On the other hand, she won the Flushing Meadows Grand Slam event because of her superior skills. “Her return is one of the best on the tour and is reminiscent of Victoria Azarenkas. Emma moves extremely efficiently and has few gaps in her game,” analyzed her former coach Mark Petchey.
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Properties that Raducanu obviously has not lost, but which she must bring back. “Emma needs another year or two to be consistent and really show what she can do,” former world number four Anke Huber said in an exclusive interview with Eurosport.de. “She can play at the forefront in the future, has everything to become a top five player and maybe even reach number one.”
Wimbledon will be a benchmark for Raducanu
There is still a long way to go before she has to go with increased difficulty in the coming weeks. The reason: the Clay Court season is in full swing with the highlight of the French Open(from 22 May live on free TV on Eurosport 1 and on Eurosport on Joyn). Strange as it may sound: Until three weeks ago, Raducanu had never played a professional tournament on the red surface. “It’s still a hate-love relationship,” admitted the Toronto, Canada-born athlete.
So it does Raducanu no favors if you expect her to do great things in Roland-Garros. The right indicator comes first in June, as a former professional Barbara Schett at Eurosport stressed out. “The big challenge will definitely be Wimbledon. I think if she could reach the semi-finals there, it would be incredible.” And possibly the long-awaited turnaround on the way back to Emma Raducanu, who thrilled the entire sports world last year.
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