The grass season in tennis always brings the chance for a fresh start. The demands of the clay court events can be put to bed, as the unique joy of summer tennis on grass comes to the fore. For Emma Raducanu, the grass season couldn’t really have come quickly enough. However, with the Brit having to retire in her first-round match at the Nottingham Open, it’s a case of yet more frustration for Raducanu as she seeks to establish herself as a contender in the Wimbledon odds before the tournament gets underway at the end of the month.
It’s fair to say that the 19-year-old has struggled to kick on from her shock triumph at last year’s US Open. Her struggles in finding the right coaching partnership have been well documented, and there’s no doubt that the constant chopping and changing has provided distractions that she could have done without.
The intense media scrutiny has also played a part. Raducanu’s US Open win thrust her into the celebrity spotlight, and that can be a lot to handle for someone so young. Suddenly, there was attention on her every match, and there’s no doubting that she has struggled to come to terms with her newfound fame.
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But the main reason Raducanu has struggled to live up to the billing since landing the big one at Flushing Meadows is the persistent injuries that have dogged her. Her withdrawal from the Nottingham Open was the third time since her US Open triumph that she has pulled out during a match. This time it was pain in her side that cost her.
You get the feeling that Raducanu will never be able to fulfil her true potential unless she can get these persistent niggles under control. Indeed, every withdrawal will just add further doubt to her mind the next time she steps onto the court. It’s unclear how much of her Nottingham Open concession was precaution or if she genuinely couldn’t continue, but her fitness regime must be called into question given how many problems are cropping up.
The lack of a consistent team of coaches and support staff could well be playing a part. There’s no doubt that she will have been given advice by dozens of different people over the last year or so, and the solution could be as simple as developing a consistent routine to follow from tournament to tournament.
The good news is that Raducanu should be fit for Wimbledon, although that is the tournament where she will be under most scrutiny. The Centre Court crowds will be eager to see her produce the kind of form that saw her reach the fourth round last year, but expectations must be tempered given that Raducanu hasn’t played a whole lot of tennis lately. That should be factored in to any tennis tips before the tournament.
It is a strange position that the 19-year-old finds herself in. Most players build their whole careers towards the ultimate goal of winning a Grand Slam — Raducanu did it in her first year as a professional. In her own mind, it must be hard to gauge what is success and progress from here on out, but the most important thing is being confident that your body is up to the task. Right now, Raducanu’s injury troubles are delaying the next chapter in her fairy-tale.
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