Why Emma Raducanu should take encouragement from her recent near misses
Another tight contest may have ended in another defeat for Emma Raducanu, yet she should take encouragement from her recent near misses.
The former US Open champion may have lost 7-5 6-4 against fifth seed Daria Kasatkina in her opening match at the Agel Open in Ostrava, but she was competitive once again against a higher-ranked opponent and should draw inspiration from her progress.
Raducanu’s story is what we should expect from a talented young teenager trying to find a rhythm and confidence to win consistently on the WTA Tour.
The trouble is, her US Open win last year inflated expectations to ridiculous levels and that continues to be a part of reflections every time Raduvanu records another defeat.
Yet this is a narrative that is more predictable than what we saw in New York in September 2021,
There was no sign of any strapping after Raducanu withdrew during her semi-final against Jelena Ostapenko in Korea a week and a half ago with another muscle injury.
And the British number one produced some good moments against her Russian opponent, ranked 11th in the world and one of the game’s best defenders, but she paid for too many errors in this latest defeat.
Raducanu recovered from a loose start to lead 3-2 in the first set, and looked to be the one applying more pressure until Kasatkina broke through to lead 5-4.
Raducanu responded well with a break of her own only to drop serve again, and this time Kasatkina – who has been the most outspoken Russian player against the invasion of Ukraine – clinched the set.
The second set was again tight but Raducanu snatched at several shots in a poor service game to drop serve at 2-2, and was unable to get back on level terms.
Raducanu hit seven more winners than Kasatkina (27 to 17), yet her unforced error count proved costly as she offered up 12 more than Kasatkina and struggled to make an impact on her service games in the second set.
This result backs up a run to the semi-finals of the WTA Tour event in Korea next week and while the time is coming for Raducanu to start finding a way to win these tight matches, this is not a moment to criticise a 19-year-old who is clearly showing signs that she is feeling more comfortable on the biggest stages in the game.
Such is the competitive mindset of Raducanu that she may not view near misses as hope that she can make a breakthrough and win her first WTA Tour event soon and in the opinion of former British No 1 Sue Barker, resolving her coaching situation needs to be a priority.
“I feel she needs one person that she really trusts and believes in,” Barker said in an interview with The Telegraph.
“Every coach comes in with a different mindset, a different way of wanting to play and a different way of teaching. And to me that would be totally confusing. It would be disruptive before it became effective. But I also feel that the pressure that she’s been put under has just been immense.
“For me, the happiest years of my career were when I was learning the game. Even though I was writing my little sad letters from America, I remember my big wins: beating Margaret Court and Evonne [Goolagong] and then playing Chrissie [Evert] in the final at Madison Square Garden.
“Taking on the people I’d watched at Wimbledon, I felt like I’d arrived, you know? But I’d also been building up gradually. Whereas Emma won a major in the fifth tournament she played. So she missed out on the fun things.
“She’s got the game and she’s shown she’s got the mindset and physically she’s fabulous. I mean, I don’t know about the injuries and what’s happening with those, but she got through the US Open from qualifying.
“I just feel that she’s got all the attributes. Now she’s got to learn how to win and maybe how to enjoy it.”
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that Amazon Prime Video is reinvesting a seven-figure sum it received from sharing its broadcast of Emma Raducanu’s US Open triumph to help boost girls’ participation in tennis.
The streaming platform had exclusive rights to the US Open last year but allowed Channel 4 to use its feed to show Raducanu’s final against Leylah Fernandez on free-to-air TV.
Prime Video vowed to put the money it received back into tennis and has now announced, in partnership with the Lawn Tennis Association, a two-year programme to train coaches across Great Britain to deliver lessons and guidance specifically designed for girls.
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