As Emma Raducanu dusted off the dirt from her clay shoes and dumped them until next year after her second-round loss to Aliaksandra Sasnovich on Wednesday, a remarkable cycle ended. Having made his professional debut in the week after the French Open at the small grass court tournament in Nottingham last year, Raducanu has now completed one year at the highest level of professional tennis.
It is, above all, a moment of reflection after a manic 12 months in which her life was transformed, a mood in which she seemed to be even before her departure in Paris: “We said with my team this morning, it’s almost a very. my return to competitive tennis, “she said Thursday.” I played a British tour [a low-level national event] in Connaught. I think I’ve come a long way since then. I think I’m really welcome to go a second time. “
Ever since Raducanu made her first timid steps on the WTA tour last June, when even her first round against Harriet Dart was too overwhelming for her to play her best tennis, she has sailed the madness of her success coming at Wimbledon. Then, on her first extended trip abroad, she left it having won the US Open.
With her success came certain difficulties. She had to adapt to the reality of being a grand slam champion: the goal on her back in the locker room, the examination outside it, the reality that she no longer had anything to lose in court and even a stalker invading her privacy. . Since the U.S. Open Raducanu has lost more than she has won, compiling a 10-13 record, and pulled up with countless physical complaints.
Every fight Raducanu has had this year should primarily remind her how abnormal and amazing her U.S. Open run was. She was clearly not physically or mentally prepared for the rigors of the tour however she was able to play at the highest level for 10 consecutive matches of qualifying, winning without dropping a set. That career has shown the potential she has, but building a career to last and a game that can hold up firmly regardless of the conditions, form or opposition is a completely different proposition.
In the WTA Race, the annual rankings, Raducanu currently sits at 61st, a more accurate reflection of her current stature than her ranking of 11. That’s no shame. The only other teenagers above her in the race are Coco Gauff and Leylah Fernandez. Even without her U.S. Open title, simply reaching the top 100 just a year after her WTA debut would be a significant achievement.
Over the past year, Raducanu has certainly made decisions questioned, such as her well-publicized training situation. Her preference for frequently changing coaches and relying on various sources for advice is ahead of 2021 and her unconventional methods have clearly helped her achieve significant success, but due to her own inexperience, the notion that she can successfully train herself is questionable.
Certain parts of her game have also receded recently, especially her service and handshake. More recently, she spent so much of her first clay court season experimenting with her game on the surface, mixing in leaner top spin, corners and trash that on a hot day in faster conditions against Sasnovich her forearm urgently lacked the attacking quality. that contributed a lot to her success.
But Raducanu’s overexposure meant that criticism was often too much, and the response to some of her losses was extremely toxic. The tennis career is long, there are downsides to endure, mistakes to make. The best players are those who learn from their trials, defeat them and eventually thrive.
It is not just the case for Raducanu; Gauff, Fernandez and all the other young players of their generation also deserve the space to grow up, especially in individual sport like tennis, where the young athletes learn to make their own decisions and are nowhere to hide.
The reality for Raducanu though is that as she goes to the grass season and Wimbledon afterwards, the attention, the examination and the noise will be almost unbearable, and she will somehow have to endure it to progress further.