0

MIKE DICKSON: Can Emma Raducanu deliver in 2023? After a year of injury and defeats

Share
MIKE DICKSON: Can Emma Raducanu deliver in 2023? After a year of injury and defeats

The well-travelled route to the upcoming Australian Open has not been for Emma Raducanu, which has seen dozens of players spend their pre-season in Dubai before heading to cities across the giant continent.

Anyway, the former US Open champion — who just turned 20 — spent Christmas in Singapore before heading to Auckland for this week’s annual WTA event in New Zealand

The city-state on the outskirts of the Malay peninsula is off the beaten path for tennis, but Raducanu enjoyed the fusion of cultures and chose it for his first week of intensive training with new coach Sebastian Sachs.

Raducanu is dressed to rock - but can he improve on a poor 2022 in the New Year?

Emma Raducanu is dressed to rock – but can she improve on a poor 2022 in the New Year?

Raducanu underwent his first week of intensive training with new coach Sebastian Sachs

Raducanu underwent his first week of intensive training with new coach Sebastian Sachs

The 30-year-old German is the latest trial to work alongside the British No 1, with a view to a permanent arrangement.

Of all the official coaching appointments Raducanu has made — and there have already been five — this may be the most important.

Because this is the year he needs to define his style of play and make the transition to being a tough professional who can challenge for big titles.

Sachs is young but has gained a wide range of experience with top German players and former world No 1 Victoria Azarenka. An experienced WTA coach with whom she toured described Sachs as ‘a decent guy who seems thorough and knows his stuff’.

Ever the outlier, Raducanu decided not to spend pre-season in Dubai like many of his fellow pros

Ever the outlier, Raducanu decided not to spend pre-season in Dubai like many of his fellow pros

Both coaches ventured that there is only a certain amount of tinkering you can do with any player – the forehand is particularly key in this case – and a voice is needed to insist on a way that Raducanu can rely on.

Related:  Almeria 1-1 Atletico Madrid: Diego Simeone's Atletico drop points away at Almeria

He started the season ranked 78, a modest number that could fuel the view that the GB No 1 will always struggle to emulate what he did at Flushing Meadows in 2021.

It may come as a surprise to such opinions that, despite losing her points at the US Open, the only player younger than Raducanu higher on the lists is American Coco Gauff. There are only six players under the age of 20 in the WTA top 100.

This suggests that Raducanu did not fall as fast as it is sometimes perceived. And that was after the mess of 2022, when there was a constant cycle of disruption around him.

Arguably the low point was the grass season, when he again battled injury and used a trusted friend, Jane O’Donoghue, as a temporary coach despite her no longer working in tennis.

Emma Raducanu is set to face a new era of tennis with a new coach in Sebastian Sachs

Emma Raducanu is set to face a new era of tennis with a new coach in Sebastian Sachs

The German helped Switzerland's Belinda Bencic (left) win the Olympic gold medal last year

The German helped Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic (left) win the Olympic gold medal last year

For all that, Raducanu still beat a decent player in her Center Court debut, Alison van Uytvanck, before losing against Caroline Garcia. That result provided insight into the Frenchwoman’s career-best season in which she became world No 4.

‘I had to adapt to other things,’ Raducanu said yesterday of his last 12 months. ‘I haven’t changed as a person, but other things around me have changed a lot. I have been very busy,

‘I don’t have time, that’s probably the biggest thing. I’m probably more in the public eye, but it comes with the territory and I wouldn’t change it for what it was.’

Throughout 2022, there were minor injuries that popped up with enough regularity to indicate that they were occasionally a crutch when the pressure was greatest.

The hiring, if only as a part-time consultant, of Andy Murray’s former fitness trainer Jez Green in the autumn looks like a step in the right direction.

The Mail on Sunday also understands that Will Herbert, who served as his physio during the New York miracle, will be a more regular presence this year, while stepping down from being full time.

This again seems positive, but proof of greater resilience will come if recurring physical ailments – which go back to his junior days – become less frequent.

While a number of delays can be expected after a stratospheric rise in popularity, there are fewer excuses as New York 2021 recedes into the distance.

A potential complication becomes servicing the commercial deals he chooses to accept thereafter.

The British tennis star will look to close the gap between his tennis ranking and his status

The British tennis star will look to close the gap between his tennis ranking and his status

She will try to close the gap between her tennis ranking and where she stands on the rich list of female athletes — 78 to four at last count. It must be said that, within the parish of the sport, you have never heard any evidence that his appetite for training and practice has been quenched by the millions who flock to him.

When Russian coach Dmitry Tursunov completed their overhaul in October he spoke colorfully about the presence of some ‘red flags’ he saw working with him. But he didn’t complain about her attitude: ‘She’s absolutely great, she’s a hard worker and she doesn’t think or act like she’s a superstar,’ he said.

Related:  Lakers tickets soar as LeBron James nears scoring record with Thunder game averaging at $952

The split was connected to the failure to tie a long-term deal for himself, which came against the Raducanu family’s well-documented suspicion of the orthodox player-coach relationship.

Raducanu, who has gone through several coaches, wants to build on his success at the 2021 US Open

Raducanu, who has gone through several coaches, wants to build on his success at the 2021 US Open

It appears that his parents, Ian and Renee, are still involved in decisions surrounding his tennis. That’s only natural at his age, and a great phenomenon in a sport where a combined family effort is usually required to produce an elite talent.

There is also a process where young players gradually want to control their destiny as they become more experienced and assertive.

Intelligent, ambitious and self-contained, this is probably what Raducanu will go through in the coming years. Tensions can arise and it is often not an easy transition.

How he handles that will go a long way in determining the answer to the frequently asked question; will the US Open prove to be a one-off freak event or will there be more to come?

‘A lot of things (said about me) are not true, but I’m not one to call anyone,’ he added in Auckland. ‘I know what is true, as do the people around me. In dealing with it, you have to accept that people are going to talk and take it as a compliment.’

If all goes well, he should try to regain a spot in the top 30 this year and start getting seeded at the Grand Slams in 2024.

A lot can still go wrong, but there remains a lot of potential upside as well. One day the young player from Kent may even win Wimbledon.

For someone who has expressed a desire to play in his 30s, the rush is on everyone else’s mind.