Emma Raducanu ready to embrace phase two of her career after US Open

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Emma Raducanu is about to return to the scene of the championship that simultaneously made her name and also a rod for her own back.  Raducanu’s defence of the US Open, which starts tomorrow, brings her full circle to the moment when her life changed forever.

The movie-script sequence which saw her run through the qualifiers to win a Grand Slam without dropping a set was so extraordinary that even now it takes some believing. It was like a flash of forked lightning.

But what has followed in terms of the layers of complexity her fairytale success brought has been far from straightforward to navigate. As a girl barely out of school, she has needed to do some pretty fast growing up since. No one thinks of needing to get a restraining order against a stalker when they are dreaming their dreams in their bedrooms of becoming a tennis champion.

She is back in New York a little older and a little wiser about the world. After a tricky year this, for her, is a line-in-the-sand tournament. If truth be told it is not one promises much. This time around she cannot turn up at Flushing Meadows as a freewheeling qualifier; the target that has been on her back ever since her unlikely win will be clearly outlined.

While enjoying a decent run at Flushing Meadows as defending champion would be fun and helpful in terms of preserving her inflated ranking as World No 11, the planet will still spin on its axis if she exits to Alize Cornet in the first round and drops down into the 80s.

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What is much more relevant is the symbolic chance this anniversary offers Raducanu to move on from the millstone success of 2021 and consign it to history. It seems faintly ridiculous to refer to a chapter two in a career when a player is still only 19 but for Raducanu that is what the period, post this US Open, will hopefully turn out to be.

Chapter one has been tough. She has not strung three victories in a row together since her seismic triumph. It is little wonder that the past 12 months have been so inconsistent given that she has needed to learn how to be a professional player as the holder of one of the great offices of the tennis state. It has weighed heavily. 

A string of minor injuries have not helped, nor – it has to be said – some of the coaching decisions she has made. The turnover, which began with the ditching of Andrew Richardson who helped guide her to the win a year ago, has been dizzying. The hire and fire has a Watford FC element to it with Raducanu – largely on the advice of her father Ian – mining the knowledge of, and then discarding, a sequence of advisors.

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When a player is trying to develop consistency, changing the message so often has to be counterproductive. The latest coaching appointment has been Dmitry Tursunov, a Russian, who has been on a two-week trial. It remains to be seen whether he will be with her at the US Open.

The list of companies she has agreed to promote in the past year has been equally lengthy. Her readiness – or that of her advisers – to embrace the commercial opportunities that have accompanied her rise has been questionable.

Tiffany, Dior, Porsche, Evian, British Airways, Vodafone, HSBC, Nike…they all have their attractions but each arrangement demands time and attention and each brings its own pressures. The results have not matched the exposure. Since the US Open she has played 31 matches, winning 14 and losing 17.

Her last tournament though provided a welcome reminder of just what a player she can be. Taking down two Grand Slam champions in the space of 24 hours was Raducanu’s biggest high since the US Open.

While she might have expected to dispose of Serena Williams in the winter of tennis’s grand dame’s career, the follow-up victory over Victoria Azarenka at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, was especially heartening. It was Raducanu’s first win over a top 25 player since the US Open and to drop just two games showed just what she is capable of.

It was instructive to hear her talk afterwards of her change in approach, ditching the tentative percentage plays for uninhibited aggression. There was a sense of tightness easing. The reality though is that it is almost as unimaginable to picture her winning this US Open as it was last time around. 

But this championship for Raducanu is all about a page-turning, not a career being defined. 



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