Emma Raducanu’s ‘tennis better now than when she won US Open’, says former world No 1

Emma Raducanu celebrates

Emma Raducanu has had a difficult full debut season on the WTA Tour, but former world No 1 Kim Clijsters feels the US Open champion has “matured as a tennis player”.

On the back of one of the most-remarkable breakthrough campaigns that saw her reach the fourth round at Wimbledon and then follow it up by winning the US Open after coming through qualifying, Raducanu has struggled this year.

Having only made her debut on the Tour in June last year, 2022 is her first full campaign at the top, but things have not exactly gone according to plan.

She has suffered with injury and illness and has failed to win three matches in a row so far this season.

Despite her stuttering campaign, three-time Grand Slam winner Clijsters feels the 19-year-old has already taken major strides forward.

“She’s already done a lot more in the lead-up to the US Open than she did last year, she beaten a lot of good players,” she told Reuters.

“She is maturing as a tennis player. I think her tennis is better now than it was when she won the US Open.”

When Raducanu won the US Open as an 18-year-old, she became the talk of the town as a lot of sponsorships, premieres and meetings with A-list celebrities followed.

Clijsters added: “When you have such a life changing experience, and I’m not talking about what happens on the court but everything else that gets added to that, even if she if she doesn’t change, people around you change.

“People look at you differently. People on the tour look at you differently whether she goes to a tournament in Luxembourg, or in Australia. Everybody knows her. Those big changes in life they take time to kind of get used to.

“It’s so unrealistic the expectations that are on her because when you play a sport, you go out there and you know, you have an opponent who’s trying to win just as hard as you.”

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Raducanu did show signs of a return to form at the Western & Southern Open earlier in August as she demolished former world No 1s Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka before falling in the third round.

But what are her chances of successfully defending her title at Flushing Meadows?

“I mean, is she going to win the US Open?” the Belgian said. “It would be incredible if she did but there’s a lot of other players out there who have just as much chance as her.

“So it will just be a matter of seeing whether she deals with that emotion of being at the Slam and the expectations of it? She might be super excited to be there and then play really free and without any pressure.”

Raducanu’s US Open path and WTA Rankings concern

The British No 1 is seeded 11th at the final Grand Slam of the season and she will face French veteran Alize Cornet in the first round while she could face four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka in the third round.

And it won’t get easier after that as sixth seed Aryna Sabalenka is the projected fourth-round opponent.

Raducanu currently sits on 2,756 points, but she is defending 2,000 points at Flushing Meadows. An early exit will see her slump out of the top 70 in the rankings.