Comment – Emma Raducanu’s comments after her first WTA Tour win highlight her unprecedented dilemma

Emma Raducanu in action on the WTA Tour

It sounds almost ridiculous to suggest Emma Raducanu’s win against Slovenia’s Polona Hercog was a breakthrough moment in her career, yet nothing makes sense when this remarkable teenager takes to the court.

The reality that the 18-year-old Brit claimed her first WTA Tour after winning the US Open sums up the momentous nature of her rise to fame and also highlights the scale of the pressure she is now operating under.

Never before has a Grand Slam champion emerged at such a formative stage of their career and with her management group IMG managing the affairs of the world’s most marketable sporting superstar, the pressure is on Raducanu to deliver on court and satisfy the new collection of elite sponsors who have signed up to be part of her story.

That may explain why on her return to Romania, the homeland of her father Ian who was watching on from the sidelines, she lost her focus and very nearly the match against experienced rival Hercog in the first round of the Transylvania Open.

Bouncing back from losing the first set to take the second and then storm to victory in the decided was a hugely positive response and now we wait to see what comes next.

This may only be a WTA 250 tournament and that status confirms it is one of the lesser events on the calendar, but the first round win was a huge stepping stone for Raducanu as she tries to build her career after the euphoria of the US Open win.

Is she going to be a one-hit-wonder? Can she cope with the pressure that goes with her new status as a global sporting icon?

They are questions 18-year-olds have rarely had to answer, but the first set of her match against Hercog highlighted the journey she is likely to be on for the next few months at the very least.

Expecting Raducanu to produce the stunning consistency that fired her to US Open glory is not realistic for a player of her experience, so there will be ups and downs on her path to confirm her status as one of the game’s top players and this win in Romania was a massive stride for him on that pathway.

“It feels like a huge win, it is my first WTA Tour win which makes me very happy,” said Raducanu.

“It was difficult for me but I feel to win my first WTA match does mean a lot because I was on a losing streak, so I got my first one. I am really pleased to have come through that today.

“It definitely means a lot, it’s my first win, I knew that in my head so I was battling really hard to get on the board. To play in Romania, I had amazing support so they definitely helped me.

“It is a shame there aren’t fans here but I hope they were watching and I just wanted to do them proud.

“I think the key was to try and stay mentally composed, I knew myself I wasn’t playing very well so I just needed to keep going one point at a time, if I kept giving myself a chance by holding serve I thought my tennis might improve and fall into place and I did – and I am really proud of myself for how I fought today.

“I take a lot from this match today. All of the matches I am playing I am gaining experience and I definitely feel that one counts huge because when you are not playing very well you know you can do better, and just pull yourself through.

“Also dropping the first set hasn’t happened to me very often so far but I have learned about digging in and that I can turn matches around and that is a big learning thing for me.”

In the grand scheme of what she hopes will be a career that includes multiple major titles, beating an unheralded opponent at the Transylvania Open may not seem significant in years to come.

Yet we almost need to forget that this is the US Open champion under the spotlight and give Raducanu the time and space she needs to breath as she gets used to her new life as tennis royalty.