Emma Raducanu celebrated her 20th birthday on November 13. What does the British No. 1 need to do in her 21st year to climb the WTA rankings again? Raducanu was a shock US Open champion in the summer of 2021 but has struggled this year to find her top level consistently. She finished the season wtih a 17-19 win-loss record and will be aiming for improvements in 2023.
Once an 18-year-old US Open champion, Emma Raducanu has now turned 20.
The British No. 1 moved out of her teens on November 13, just a week
— Emma Raducanu (@EmmaRaducanu) November 5, 2022
Emma Raducanu ends the year with a 17-19 win-loss record, no full-time coach on her team (again), and having slipped down to No. 74 in the world rankings. But there’s still plenty of time ahead.
Great Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup captain Anne Keothavong said recently that Raducanu is “capable of achieving great things”. Those great things may not come in 2023, but what does Emma Raducanu need to prioritise in her 21st year to start climbing the rankings again?
The phrase ‘coaching merry-go-round’ has been become synonymous with Raducanu’s short career.
Since first breaking onto the scene at Wimbledon in 2021, Raducanu has had four coaches – Nigel Sears, Andrew Richardson, Torben Beltz and Dmitry Tursunov. None have lasted long, with Tursunov the latest to leave the team after saying there were “red flags” that he couldn’t ignore.
Maybe Emma Raducanu doesn’t need a long-term coach to be successful and can continue to develop by taking nuggets from different people and then moving on.
But that can surely only last a finite amount of time due to the number of available elite-level coaches. And for how much longer will she continue to be an attractive coaching proposition if the job is almost certainly going to be a short one?
“I guess a red flag for me would be how come these relationships don’t last?” seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander told Eurosport.
“It’s very dangerous to speculate in anything that is not the facts, and the facts are that she has not been able to work for an extended period of time with some of the best coaches in our game. That might be a red flag for me because it’s that structure.
“But it’s also belief and you have to find the right fit. It’s like a sporting romance you have with your coach and you have to find the right relationship. Most of time you’re not talking about tennis, you’re talking about other things in life and you have to have common interests in life.”
There have not been any signs yet that Raducanu is close to appointing her fifth coach in the last 18 months, but she has made another potentially important appointment…
Raducanu’s first full season on the WTA Tour was blighted by injuries.
Most were not serious, but she retired from four matches in 2022 and was hampered in others by issues such as blisters and back and hip problems.
In a bid to get in the best physical shape for 2023, Raducanu has started working with Andy Murray’s former fitness coach Jez Green.
If Raducanu does get a good training block with Green then former world No. 1 Murray thinks it would be beneficial.
“I think sometimes unless you really dedicate the time to it is kind of difficult to make a difference. So if they get to spend enough time together, I’m sure that would be helpful for her,” said Murray at the recent Paris Masters.
“If it’s not Jez, then a strength and conditioning coach full time I’m sure would be helpful.
“Trying to improve the physical side and avoid the niggles and injuries, and the best way to do that is to get stronger and have someone around you more consistently.”
— Emma Raducanu (@EmmaRaducanu) November 5, 2022
Green’s input could be valuable for Raducanu, while having a full season under her belt on the WTA Tour should also be beneficial moving forward.
“She’s had a year on tour where she has a better understanding of what the expectations are and how to manage her time and her body,” said Keothavong recently. “So she’ll have a clearer idea about that going into next year.”
Settle on a playing style
If there is an issue with changing coaches so regularly could it be that Raducanu is getting mixed messages about tactics and how she should be approaching matches?
When she won the US Open she served fast and was aggressive with her returns. She also didn’t back down with her groundstrokes and was looking for the corners and lines.
This year she has not played the same way consistently. There seemed to be some signs of increased aggression over the hard-court summer and as she made the semi-finals in Korea in September without dropping a set in three matches. Whether that was due to Tursunov’s influence is unclear, but another new coach may suggest a different approach.
Wilander says Raducanu has “all the physical attributes to be a great player” but needs a clear gameplan moving forward.
“I think you have to look at other players, someone like Simona Halep, and the style when she was at her best which was not making mistakes.
“Athletically Emma Raducanu is an unbelievable athlete, she can move with the best of them and seems very flexible. She anticipates the play ahead of time. She has all these physical attributes to be a great player.
“She doesn’t have a killer weapon like an Iga Swiatek forehand so you have to fight for every single shot that you hit. It’s a learning curve and wins give you confidence where they might carry you through the next match and the next week.
“For Raducanu it’s about trying to find out what is she good at, what is she trying to achieve, and what does she need to stay away from in terms of weaknesses.”