Emma Raducanu: The US Open champion’s homecoming movie must get real

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Emma Radacanu with the US Open trophy

One of the biggest problems with sequels is they often rehash the plot of the first movie. While the audience loves familiar themes and characters, they also demand a flowering of new, fresh perspectives.

Toy Story was one of those franchises which kept this quality control and reflected the big theme of life’s dynamics. The innocence of youth can’t insulate against the chaos of constant change. As the alien selected by The Claw says in the original film: “I have been chosen! Farewell, my friends. I go on to a better place.”

Emma Raducanu is not a Disney character, but she’s in a very good place. The plot line of her success would be thrown out as implausible even by the scriptwriters for Fast & Furious. In the space of two and a half months, she’s already had two homecomings. The first was more hastily arranged than a state visit from Her Majesty, and, naturally, the 19-year-old ended up trading forehands with the Duchess of Cambridge at Roehampton.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Even the LTA got into the modern-day spirit by parading the champions of Flushing Meadows, which included wheelchair doubles winners Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid and the men’s doubles champion, Joe Salisbury. This was all about Emma though. She was the event, the poster girl, the proof that showed you can do your A-Levels and be a major champion just after the results come through.

Thankfully, the world No 19 is not one to get carried away. Eddie Jones may have missed this bit, but amid all the paparazzi photographs at the London Fashion Show, the appearance at the Bond film, and the Tiffany sponsorship deal, her memorable moment was having a quiet meal with her team.

“What Emma did next” is now on everybody’s mind. Within a fortnight, she dispensed with coach Andrew Richardson, citing: “The players at the top are serious competition and serious players so I feel like I really need someone who has been through that and can really guide me along the way, because I’m still very very new to everything.” It was a statement that acknowledged her rookie status but was imbued with the ruthlessness of knowing that a step up was necessary.

This is the bit in the movie where a grizzled oracle – Torben Beltz – steps up to the plate to get the very best out of his young charge. There will be tears, bloody hard work and lessons learned. Success is messy. We just see the end product.

So there she was, at Homecoming 2, in the grand surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall, which matched the new status of Great Britain’s first Grand Slam female singles major winner for 44 years. Raducanu beat her practice partner Romanian Elena-Gabriela Ruse, a willing accomplice at losing in the right spirit. As advertised, it was all a bit of an exhibition stretching the last bit of juice out of that achievement. This marked a line in the sand; the end of the honeymoon period.

Raducanu has actually won some matches on the WTA Tour since the heady days of September. Her swift elevation now makes it sound like losing to the world No 100 will be a disaster, such is the prism that she will be seen through now. She has much to gain, and, still literally nothing to lose in terms of ranking points. A decent first week run in Australia and then Wimbledon could see her get into the world top 10. Sounds good when we say it like that.

Emma Raducanu

Here’s the rub. Rolling along like a solid player, making third or fourth rounds, won’t be as stellar as the fantasy story we have just seen. What the teenager has achieved is quite the thing to set you up for a fall. The drama of the medical injury at SW19 to seamless, composed winner in New York is the hook that cannot keep giving. This narrative is about to have a healthy dose of realism applied to it. She won’t go deep into every second week in every major. When she *fails* to do so, the great court of public opinion will have its reactionary say. This yellow brick road will have rocks and stones.

Emma Raducanu’s star has shone so brightly that the difficult second album might just need a few years in development. Progress doesn’t always mean trophies or happy endings. Patience and pragmatism are now required on set.

Follow Tim Ellis on Twitter @Timotei365

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