Emma Raducanu verdict: Rankings rise and what comes next for US Open champion
In the end, Emma Raducanu suffered a fate many predicted at the Australian Open, but this was not a failure on the grand scale.
After her 6-0, 6-1 defeat against Elena Rybakina in Syndey a week before the first Grand Slam of 2022, there was genuine concern that Raducanu’s remarkable fairytale of New York would be a fleeting moment of glory that would never be repeated.
Yet what we saw from Raducanu at at the Australian Open was more encouraging than it was concerning.
While a second round exit at the hands of Danka Kovinic looks like a big backward step compared to her US Open triumph last September and her memorable run to the fourth round of Wimbledon last summer, a bigger picture needs to be observed here.
Raducanu showed enough in her first round win against Sloane Stephens and in a tight defeat against Kovinic to suggest that a bright future lies in wait for the teenager when she files down the rough edges in her game, which are inevitably there for someone so new to the top tier of the game.
In addition, the defeat against Kovinic came amid a challenging physical battle that left her handicapped from first point to last.
Unable to hit her forehand with authority due to blisters on her right hand, Raducanu did well to take the match in a third set and confirmed afterwards that members of her team encouraged her to pull out due to the damage she carried with her on to court.
Yet Raducanu’s impressive maturity and court awareness was in evidence as she adapted to her injury and used a slice forehand to get her closer to the winning line that seemed possible for long periods.
Her powerful backhand was also in impressive shape and given that her preparations for the Australian Open were disrupted by a Covid infection and a period of isolation, her first trip to play in the senior event at the Australian Open should be seen as a positive experience.
With her provisional WTA ranking already up to No.13 and further rises inevitable as she had no big points to defend between now and Wimbledon in June, Raducanu looks to be in good shape to reach that event as a top ten player.
That ranking may not reflect Raducanu’s place in the game, but she needs to take advantage of the positive draws she could get on the back of her lofty ranking.
What comes next for the 19-year-old remains an open question, with Raducanu hinting she may play in events in Dubai and Qatar next month, with events in Mexico also a possibility ahead of her appearance at the WTA 1000 events at Indian Wells and Miami in March.
By then, Raducanu could be a top ten player and even if her doubters will continue to voice their pessimism over her future, that in itself will be a remarkable achievement.
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