Tennis dared to believe Emma Raducanu would become the face of a new generation in the women’s game, yet the doubters are now drowning out the optimists in the discussion around the 2021 US Open champion.
When you create the biggest fairytale in tennis history, what comes next is always likely to be lacking some stardust, yet Raducanu’s failure to build on her famous win in New York 18 months ago is starting to become a real concern.
At the age of 20, the elegant player still has plenty of time to return to the spotlight, but her exit in the opening round of the Miami Open against Bianca Andreescu served up a whole host of new questions.
“It was a very flat performance,” declared Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup captain Anne Keothavong, speaking a few days after Raducanu declared herself unfit to play in next month’s tie against France in Coventry. Instead, she is due to play in Stuttgart a week later, in an event supported by one of her most lucrative sponsors.
Here is the All Court Tennis Club verdict on what comes next for Raducanu, with the jury out on her hopes of repeating Grand Slam success.
Raducanu has struggled to adapt to life on the WTA Tour since her US Open win, with a series of injuries hampering her progress.
A wrist problem from last year has seemingly returned, with the young Brit seen constantly shaking both hands during the defeat against Andreescu in Miami last week.
“It’s something I have been managing for some time. I just need to review it after this tournament and figure out what my next steps are,” she told reporters following her loss in Miami.
“I’m able to play in the short term, but the current solutions aren’t very viable long term.”
“I think that I’m doing the right things day to day, which brings me confidence. This year has been difficult in the sense that I have been managing a few ongoing injuries.”
“It has been frustrating because I’ve been working as best as I can. But I still feel like I’m enjoying the competition.”
Raducanu has been working with Andy Murray’s former fitness coach Jez Green and appears to have added some muscle to her slender frame in recent months, but she cannot compete at the top of the game unless she stays fit for long enough to play for a sustained period.
Raducanu is currently working with Sebastian Sachs after chopping and changing her coach on numerous occasions in her fledgling career.
She reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2021 working with the experienced Nigel Sears, won her first Grand Slam with Andrew Richardson and has also been coached by Dmitry Tursunov and Torben Beltz.
The presence of five different coaching voices in less than two years does not appear to be a recipe for success and Raducanu has to hope she has found the right guide in Sachs.
The early signs are promising, with her run to the fourth round of the Indian Wells tournament showcasing a rebranded approach to go with her powerful ground shots.
Amid the negativity around Raducanu in the last year, many in tennis are backing the youngster to rise back to the top.
The WTA Tour needs new shining stars and Emma has the potential to draw a fresh generation of players to the game, with her US Open win inspiring a surge in young players picking up tennis rackets for the first time in the UK.
She has also received the backing of tennis legend Chris Evert, who identified Raducanu’s best qualities in an interview with Eurosport.
“I don’t know her well enough, actually, to answer that question, but I think I see a little more determination in her eyes, and I know she’s not a flash in the pan,” stated the 18-time Grand Slam champion.
“I think she is here to stay, and she is here to compete with Cocoa and the other top players, and she will. I don’t know what her ranking is now, but she’s definitely going to be a top ten player. ”
“She had a tough go after she won the US Open. I don’t think she really knew what hit her for a while after, and everybody was really gunning for her. She played scared a little bit. ”
“I think there’s been enough time since the US Open where she can take a deep breath now and she can say that was then, this is now, and this is what I need to do.”
“So I think she’s going to have a much better year than she had last year, even though it is tough on the tour now.”
It is still too early to make conclusions on where Raducanu’s career is heading.
No player wins ten matches without dropping a set to win the US Open by luck alone and Raducanu has the skillset to trouble the best in the game, but she needs to add some resilience to her physical make-up if she is to make the most of her natural talent.
Plenty of cynics on social media seem to delight in Raducanu’s failings, but the WTA Tour would be boosted by her second coming and it could become a reality if she finds a way to avoid injury and build momentum on court.