Emma Raducanu rallies after US Open title drives her to ‘bottom’

“If I can do it here, I can do it anywhere,” the old saying goes. Only, it turns out that managing to be constantly splashed by the British tabloids could be even more difficult, especially when you’re a local teenager darling of women’s tennis pushed from high school and relative obscurity to the US Open champion in a minute in New York.

Emma Raducanu’s performance in an unexpected run for the women’s singles title at Flushing Meadows 12 months ago is the kind of magic usually reserved for the big Hollywood screens, only it has come true. And moreover untenable for the 19-year-old.

Emma Raducanu is training ahead of this year’s US Open.
Getty Images
Emma Raducanu meets the media ahead of this year's US Open.
Emma Raducanu meets the media ahead of this year’s US Open.
Getty Images

Consider that at the start of last year, Raducanu was ranked No. 355 in the world. In July, she became the youngest woman to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon. In September, she capped a three-week run that included qualifying for the main draw, becoming the first British woman to reach a US Open final since Virginia Wade in 1968 and, beating fellow teenage girl Leyla Fernandez in two sets, making history as the first qualifier, male or female, to win a Grand Slam title in the Open Era.

Then there were congratulatory messages from Queen Elizabeth II and the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, among others.

Between trips to the All England Club and Arthur Ashe Stadium, she graduated from high school and with high marks.

« I just think with the tabloids in England it’s brutal, » Chris Evert said of Raducanu this summer. « I mean, they camp on your doorstep if you’re a superstar. »

Long before Raducanu hit it big in the Big Apple, she was smart, grounded and ambitious, according to those who know her best. Her success put her in the tennis spotlight on the game’s biggest stage. But her game, age, charm, looks and intelligence helped her transcend the sport.

But even the best education in Britain would not have prepared her for what was to come.

Offers from luxury brands Tiffany & Co., Dior and Porsche, among others, poured in. Expectations skyrocketed. But not all attentions were good. Last December, Amrit Magar, a former Amazon delivery driver, stalked Raducanu at her home in London, where he repeatedly left notes, flowers and Christmas decorations and, on one particular mission, stole one of his father’s shoes as a souvenir.

The ordeal left Raducanu « frightened » and afraid to be home alone. Magar was sentenced in February to community service and a five-year injunction.

Then there is the matter of his tennis.

Emma Raducanu became the first Open-era qualifier to win a Grand Slam at last year's US Open.
Emma Raducanu became the first Open Era qualifier to win a Grand Slam at last year’s US Open.

This year, Raducanu is just 13-15 in 15 tournaments. She has only reached the quarter-finals twice, in Germany and at last month’s Citi Open in Washington. In the first three Grand Slam tournaments of the year, she did not go beyond the second round.

Critics quickly called. Among them was former world No. 1 Kim Clijsters, who called Raducanu a « princess ». It didn’t help that the teenager had already burned through a few coaches in her fledgling career and recently hired Russian Dmitry Tursunov, a move that has drawn ire from some members of the British government given the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

All of this has admittedly been difficult for Raducanu to deal with, but she is at least trying to understand it.

« I think it took me a while, but right now I’m enjoying the challenge of coming back and continually picking myself up, » she told the Post earlier this month. “To get out of the abyss, really, many times repetitively, I think it’s a fun challenge and I think I’ve distorted my perception of it.

Emma Raducanu at the world premiere of "no time to die" at the Royal Albert Hall in London after winning the US Open last year.
Emma Raducanu at the world premiere of ‘No Time to Die’ at the Royal Albert Hall in London after winning the US Open last year.
Getty Images for EON Productions

« I don’t see it as a negative thing anymore. I just see, OK, like the cards aren’t good right now, but what can I do about it? Then the reward you feel after a win, knowing you’ve been through that, it means so much more.

Yet during her Friday training session in Flushing, she broke down in tears at one point, appearing to be battling a wrist problem.

There have been at least a few bright spots along the way, especially lately.

Last week in Cincinnati, she dusted off Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, losing just six games between the two matches. In Washington, she picked up a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) win over Camilo Osorio on an extremely hot day in which she suffered blisters in her right hand.

Raducanu appeared to be struggling with a wrist problem during Friday's practice at the US Open.
Raducanu appeared to be struggling with a wrist problem during Friday’s practice at the US Open.
Getty Images

Yet the results were otherwise extremely disappointing.

Part of Raducanu’s struggles can be attributed to struggling to maintain the level of play she displayed while going wild in New York. The strengths of his game – serve and returns, intensity, movement and passing under pressure – have also been inconsistent at best.

“Watching my matches at the US Open, there were times when I would come out with outrageous blows,” she said. « Sometimes in your career you feel like everything is automatic, you can aim any shot you want and it’ll land. Those weeks don’t go by very often. You might have one or two a year. For me, I mean, I was lucky to get about three when it really mattered.

At this point, it’s been almost a decade since a woman successfully defended her US Open singles title, with Serena Williams doing so in 2014. Since then, six different women have won the title.

But there’s one area of ​​Raducanu’s game that seems to have come: navigating that alley between his ears.

« I think mentally I’m really proud of what I’m doing right now, » she said. « I feel wiser now compared to just after the US Open and at the start of this year, because I think no matter what I said, I probably had certain expectations of myself that were probably a little twisted. And now I sincerely accept it.

« I don’t think I expected to play US Open tennis every week, because I knew [that] I was so zoned out that I was playing really, really well, some of my best tennis. But I would say even though maybe at the start of the year I was saying, look, it doesn’t matter, no pressure. I think I didn’t necessarily buy into it as much as I probably do now.


Back to top button