Comment – Emma Raducanu’s Wimbledon homecoming has been hyped to dangerous levels
There was an uncomfortable symmetry surrounding Emma Raducnau’s summer homecoming.
It was at the Nottingham Tennis Centre in June 2021 that the relatively unknown teenager made her debut in a WTA event, taking on fellow Brit Harriet Hart and losing 6-3 6-4.
No one saw what was around the corner, with Raducanu’s run to the fourth round at Wimbledon a few weeks later a breakthrough moment for the watching world.
Then came her historic US Open win and a life-changing event that propelled Raducanu into a category of superstardom very few frequent.
What came next was unchartered territory, as Raducanu had to adapt to life in a glaring spotlight while trying to find her feet on the WTA Tour and attempting to answer the inevitable questions that her success in New York was a one-hit wonder.
Those barbs have developed a more pointed edge as Raducnau faced an inevitable period of transition on a senior tour that has been new to her on every stop over the last year.
It was only when he returned to Nottingham on Tuesday that she was playing at an event on familiar ground, with the injuries that have hampered her progress all year again halting her progress as she was forced to pull out of her match against Viktorija Golubic after just seven games.
“It was an absolute freak injury,” she reflected. “It was in the first game and an absolute freak – I think I pulled something and I’m not sure what exactly happened.
“I don’t know what I could have done more about it, so that’s it.
“I’ve been preparing really well for this tournament and feeling good and comfortable – I think that even when I was out there, there were signs I was pretty happy with in terms of playing aggressively. It’s just a shame and something random in the first game.
“I feel like I’ve been putting really good work in and just want to catch a break. I haven’t really and that’s out of my control. I can only focus on what I’m doing – I think I’m putting in a lot of good work and I have to trust that it will come. It’s happening for a reason but I’m exactly where I need to be.”
Dealing with expectation was always going to be one of the factors Raducanu would need to battle after setting the bar so high from day one, but physical issues have proved to be an even bigger barrier for a player who has only managed to show flashes of brilliance over the last year.
Raducanu’s injury in Nottingham occurred in the first game of her match and the mood in the press room afterwards was laced with gloom, as the success of this one teenager is crucial to the ambitions of the UK media heading into the summer tennis rush.
Wimbledon without Raducanu is suddenly the nightmare scenario for so many in the UK tennis community and that is a huge burden for a young player who has played just 21 matches since her US Open win.
As we have said on Tennis365 from the moment Raducanu hit the winning ace that secured her US Open win, patience is required when setting the bar of expectation for this potentially wondering sporting talent.
The trouble is, each and every stumble on her path is now treated as evidence by many of her doubters that this Raducanu story is destined to end in tears.
We are a long way from reaching that point yet, but the curiously vocal hounds waiting for Emma to fail are starting to sense their prey is in sight.
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