Emma Raducanu faces ‘make or break’ month as she is handed huge rankings opportunity

Kevin Palmer
Emma Raducanu climbing back up the WTA Rankings
Emma Raducanu climbing back up the WTA Rankings

Emma Raducanu is about to be handed an opportunity to reboot her year with appearances at two big grass court tournaments ahead of Wimbledon – and this could be a make-or-break month for the 2021 US Open champion.

Raducanu has a glorious chance to leap from her current WTA Ranking of a lowly 205 as she prepares to play in front of her British fans, with the importance of the next two or three tournaments on English grass courts impossible to underestimate.

While the 21-year-old has served up some impressive performances after undergoing surgery on both of her wrists and her ankle that ruled her out of the entire 2023 grass court season and the second half of the year, the time has come to add consistency to her fleeting moments of brilliance as she takes advantage of the wildcards coming her way for events in front of her home fans.

This has been an up-and-down season for Raducanu as she made her comeback from the surgeries that halted her career a year ago, the recovery period is now complete and the time has come for Raducanu to confirm she can deliver the numbers on the court to match the impressions she creates on social media platforms off it.

It was always likely to be a challenge for Raducanu in 2024 after such a long spell out with injury and she has highlighted her quality in fleeting moments.

Raducanu won two matches in impressive fashion for Great Britain as they beat France in the Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers in April and backed that up with a run to the quarter-finals at a star-studded WTA 500 event in Stuttgart.

On the negative side, Raducanu pulled out of the Miami Open due to injury after taking a wildcard and then turned in a curiously flat performance at the Madrid Open, after she took another wildcard into the tournament.

Why Emma Raducanu’s tennis racket slices a blade through the opposition

Emma Raducanu gambled with the court of public opinion – and it has backfired

It wasn’t just the 6-2 6-2 defeat against Argentinian qualifier Maria Lourdes Carle in Madrid that left plenty of questions over Raducanu’s appetite for the game as her body language on court inspired Great Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup caption Anne Keothavong to offer up these stinging comments.

“I don’t think you can analyse the tennis because Emma the performer didn’t show up today,” Keothavong told Sky Sports.

“If any athlete doesn’t show up ready to play, you don’t really stand a chance. Credit her opponent, who came out with fire and energy and she was the one who looked up for it and was ready for the fight.

“We talk a lot about head, heart and legs, and if your head and your heart aren’t in it, your legs don’t stand a chance.

“It was really disappointing to see. She said she was tired, but do you talk yourself into more tiredness?”

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by LTA (@lta)

After that limp effort in Madrid, Raducanu pulled out of the qualifying event for the French Open and suggested she would rather focus on grass court preparations, which sparked a fresh debate over whether the 2021 US Open champion is prepared to play lower-profile events in a bid to get back to the top.

The performance in Madrid and her Roland Garros move may have an impact on her hopes of getting wildcards for future events, as tournament directors will not want to waste one of their prized free entry tickets on a player who may not deliver the value they are looking for.

So Raducanu needs to make the most of the multiple wildcards coming her way to play in the Nottingham Open and Eastbourne International, as well as at Wimbledon, as a huge chance to climb up the WTA rankings is coming her way.

Those tournaments offer up 2,750 points for any player who could win all three and while that ambition is out of the question for Raducanu right now, she needs to string together some wins in Nottingham and Eastbourne to boost her ranking.

Then she will have a chance to return to Wimbledon, where she reached the fourth round in 2021, with hopes of adding to her ranking points haul on grass.

Runs to the latter stages at Nottingham, Eastbourne and Wimbledon could see Raducanu claim around 500-600 ranking points and that would propel her back towards the top 100 of the WTA Rankings.

Yet early exits in those three tournaments would leave her facing a challenging second half of 2024, where she would be relying on more wildcards or the use of her protected ranking to get into top tier events.

She may have to play US Open qualifying to get into the final Grand Slam of the year, but her decision to step away from the preliminary round for the French Open last month poses a question about whether she would enter qualifying at Flushing Meadows.

Aside from her US Open heroics three years ago, the harsh reality is Raducanu has never made a WTA Tour final and the only time she played in a semi-final of a tournament in Korea in 2022, when she was unable to complete the match due to injury.

Tennis would welcome the return of Raducanu to top form consistently, but she has big questions to answer over the next few weeks that could define what comes next in her tennis career.