Emma Raducanou carries a lot of expectations as she enters Wimbledon

The British tennis industry gasped earlier this month.

For the third time this year, young sensation Emma Raducanou was forced to retire in the middle of a match due to injury. Just weeks before Wimbledon, her participation in the event, the sport’s most anticipated homecoming in years, was in jeopardy.

A long headline in The Daily Mail read:

Emma Răducanu ‘has no idea’ if she’ll be ready for Wimbledon as she WITHDRAWN just 33 minutes into her first match on grass since last summer, after the US Open champion only played seven games due to ” strange” injury to the left side. ” (Underline them.)

However, a day later, Radukan, who is 19, was informed that she expected everything to be fine at Wimbledon, which starts on Monday. But the excitement will still be there until she hits her first shot, most likely on Center Court, and possibly manages to win her first match. Dreaming of a kingdom.

“It’s stress that’s really off the charts,” said Annabelle Croft, a former British professional and once-rising young star who is one of the few women who suspects the pressure Radukanu is under.

Wimbledon is where it all started a year ago for Radukan. At the time, she was only a few weeks away from taking her university entrance exams, a virtually unknown player with smooth shots and the ability to slide across the court. Raducanu advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon, captivating fans with her athleticism and graceful style, before retiring breathlessly against Australia’s Ayla Tomljanovic.

As it turned out, this race was just a warm-up. Two months later at the US Open, she won 10 consecutive matches on her way to the title. Radukanu became the first British woman to win a Grand Slam since Virginia Wade in 1977.

Raducanu, a British citizen born in Canada to a Chinese mother and a Romanian father, seemed destined for subsequent world sporting stardom.

There was the Met Gala, and then millions of dollars of sponsorship from the most prestigious corporations – Porsche, Tiffany and Co., British Airways, Evian, Dior and Vodafone, and so on and so forth. Now, when someone says “Emma” in Britain, they mean Radukana rather than Jane Austen. She became the main destroyer of the game.

Coco Gauff, an 18-year-old American, said in May that Radukanu has changed her mind about winning Grand Slams, meaning she now believes anyone can do it, even her. Gauff reached the final of the French Open earlier this month.

Radukan’s incredible path could inspire more players to become a Grand Slam winner while avoiding life in a tennis academy and preparing to enter one of England’s legendary universities. Win one of four major sports championships on just your second attempt. Doing this with seeming immunity to pressure.

Radukanu recently announced that she has decided not to hire a full-time coach. She went through four and she determined that what she really needed were high-intensity punching partners. “Sparring,” as she recently put it. This will allow her to become more accustomed to the pace of tennis at the highest level. Playing without a coach is something most top players just don’t do.

For this breakthrough to be successful, at some point, Raducanu’s performance must return to the level it reached at the end of last summer. Her record is an unremarkable 8-11 this year.

She and her former coaches said she was trapped in December by Covid-19, interrupting her off-season training. She entered the season in a deteriorating physical condition. This may have led to nagging injuries and not having the season she had hoped for. She recently said that because of her US Open win and the 2,000 points she brought in, her ranking (11th) is probably better than her game.

All of this, of course, would be fine if Radukanu was just another player just starting her second year as a pro. Radukanu is so new to this life that last month in Paris, where she played in the main draw of the French Open for the first time, she said she was looking forward to her second full year as a pro because she won’t be like that again. . knows nothing about his surroundings every week.

“I always ask where everything is,” she said.

And yet Radukanu is the reigning US Open champion and the first Grand Slam champion to emerge from a qualifying tournament. She was named the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2021 and is the reason the Lawn Tennis Association, which oversees tennis in the UK, is reporting a surge in participation since September.

For seven consecutive months, monthly adult participation has been steadily rising, said John Dolan, a spokesman for the organization. Women’s participation in the first three months of 2022 was higher than in the last five years. Annual participation among youth aged 16 to 34 increased by 10 percent.

“My academy is completely filled with little boys and girls who want to be next,” Clinton Coleman, global scout for IMG, a leading sports firm and chief specialist at the London Tennis Centre, said of the Radukan phenomenon. “Never seen anything like it.”

Simon Briggs, tennis correspondent for The Telegraph, one of Britain’s biggest news organizations, said that a year ago he thought he would have to find another job. Andy Murray’s career was coming to an end, and the British talent pool seemed to have exhausted itself.

Radukanu then advanced to the fourth round of Wimbledon. Briggs had to write a story about her virtually every day as she began the North American summer hard court season. Three days after she lost to Radukan in the second round of the French Open, Briggs was still writing stories about her.

“It should be the biggest sports story here since World War II,” Briggs said last week.

Jo Dury, a UK top 10 player in the 1970s who commentates on tennis for the BBC, says people who don’t even follow the sport often stop her in the market to ask about Radukan.

“She’s so famous that people expect her to play well and win all the time,” Dury said. Of course, this is not fair. She’s so young.”

Perhaps only Christine Truman can understand what Radukane’s transformation into “Emma” really was like. Truman, 81, reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon when she was 16 and won the French Open two years later. The victory earned her a £40 (US$112 at the time) voucher that could not be used for anything related to tennis because it would violate the rules of professionalism at the time. But she became a household name literally overnight.

She was tall and blonde and easily recognisable, and she couldn’t walk to the bread line, take the subway escalator, or go to the drugstore without stopping. She met Winston Churchill, who sent her congratulatory telegrams. By that time he was already quite old, although it was still exciting for her.

“Winston, this is a tennis player,” Clementine Churchill said to her husband, who shook hands with Truman.

When she was in her early 20s, Truman said she thought she could “have fun” and stay at the top of the game. It didn’t work that well.

Her advice to Radukan?

“Remember what made you better and don’t lose sight of it,” she said in an interview last week.

And hire a coach.

“They can spur you on when you’re doing well and lift you up when you doubt yourself,” she said. “If they have faith, it will be transferred to you.”