Criticism of Emma Raducanu is misplaced as tennis needs the Brit to shine
First there was the hype and now there are the question marks, but this is not the moment to pass judgement on Emma Raducanu.
Anyone who believed the British teenager would follow up her US Open triumph last September with a run of results that would propel the Brit to the top of the game didn’t appreciate the demands of adapting to life on the WTA Tour.
After all, it should be remembered that this time last year, Raducanu was tweeting messages about her A-levels and was not even close to entering events on the senior women’s tour.
Roll the clock forward and she is a Grand Slam champion, BBC Sports Personality of the Year and the face of a new generation of tennis stars that was badly needed to carry the game into a new era.
Ashleigh Barty’s retirement and exit from the women’s game is a blow the sport could have done without, at a time when the general public are not as familiar as we would want them to be with the game’s leading lights.
If members of the public were asked to name their top three stars from the WTA Tour, Raducanu may be one of the names they might throw up as new world No 1 Iga Swiatek is still building her global brand with many of her rivals facing a similar battle.
The issues at the top of the women’s game right now do not revolve around a lack of quality of the game’s best players, but more a challenge for them to establish a profile outside of the tennis community at a moment when the men’s game continues to dominate the media agenda.
So when a glistening star of Raducanu’s grace is gifted to your sport, we need to give her the time and space she needs to develop into the champion all in tennis believe she can be.
Maybe her ranking is over-inflated due to her US Open win and maybe she needs to find a way to close out matches when she gets into a winning position, yet Raducnau is an asset our game needs to be patient with.
Never mind the sponsorship deals she has signed and let’s ignore the lack of wins on her record since that remarkable US Open win as Raducanu has the raw talent to become a superstar in this sport and she has confirmed as much in small measures in 2022.
Some of her play at the Australian Open and in both Indian Wells and Miami offered glimpses of a bright future and while she is not yet the finished product (how could she be at the age of 19!), Raducanu should be a media magnet for all the right reasons.
Every loss does not need to be treated like a disaster, every setback is not the end of this story, as we are at the start of a journey that could last for a decade and more.
The pressure piling on to Emma when she steps on court isn’t helping her cause and that will only multiply when she gets to play in front of her own fans and media on English grass courts this summer, but former players and those eager to create headlines by questioning the world No 13 need to hold their fire.
Swiatek took several months to adjust to life at the top after her French Open win in 2020 and the same path now needs to be followed by Raducanu over the course of the next few months and years.
It may have felt like Raducanu had reached the top of the tennis mountain after her US Open win, but that was just the start of her story.
To those now appearing to revel in her each and every stumble, remember how important this diamond could be to our sport for years to come as women’s tennis needs Raducanu to succeed in her mission to become more than a one-hit-wonder.
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