Once again injuries hampered Emma Raducanu’s pursuit of a Grand Slam after a blister on her hand massively influenced her premature exit in the Australian Open. The 19-year-old, who won the US Open back in September, was beaten 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 by Montenegro’s Danka Kovinić in a match where the Brit looked some way off her exceptionally high standards. It was a performance that was a far cry from the fearless final display against Leylah Fernandez — a match that earnt her a surprise Grand Slam victory which certainly went against the Betfair tennis odds.
Since then, we’ve seen Raducanu burst into the spotlight, picking up modelling deals and winning the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year for 2021. But now her attention has to turn back to the court. It was an underwhelming turnout at Melbourne Park, and you feel that despite her young age, her career is arguably already at a crossroads. There needs to be some more consistency in the youngster’s game, so read on as we try to analyse what went wrong for Raducanu at the Australian Open.
Unfortunately, a recurring theme of Raducanu in Grand Slam competitions is her record with injury. Perhaps down to fatigue and lack of experience in big matches and new conditions, a blister on her hand obviously affected her performance against Kovinić, being forced to alter her game to play more with the forehand.
She had to retire early at Wimbledon after needing treatment for breathing difficulties, but these things obviously will help her long term, something she recognised post-match in Melbourne, saying: “It was a difficult match. I was struggling with my hand before the match. There were some people in my team that maybe didn’t want me to play but I wanted to go out there and fight through it, see how far I could get.
“But I thought it was a pretty good learning experience for me. I discovered tools about myself and my game that I didn’t know I had before so I can take some positives even from this match.”
Despite only being a professional for a couple of years, we have already seen Raducanu change coaches twice. Having switched to Nigel Sears at the start of 2021, Wimbledon had clearly gone well, but she decided to replace him with Andrew Richardson. Propelling to superstardom, she decided to change coaches again, suggesting a more experienced mentor was needed. It was a move that so far lacked maturity as German Torben Beltz, her current coach, has yet to deliver the goods. It will certainly be interesting to see if she sticks with him long term or decides to make a third switch in less than two years.
Dealing with setbacks
This won’t be the last time Raducanu has to deal with a defeat. In what is an admittedly early professional career, she has always managed to have the rub of the green where results are concerned — down to a mixture of valiant performances and youthful exuberance. However, there are times where your best is still not good enough and that is something the youngster has to come to terms with.
The reality of the situation is there is potential for Raducanu to become one of the best female tennis players of the modern generation, and sometimes you learn much more about yourself on the court through defeat than you would etching a victory. With that being said, fans will be eager to see how she performs over the next year, especially with still so much growing up to do and positions to climb in terms of rankings.