Just recently, Emma Raducanu, the sparkling and surprising 2021 US Open champion, took yet another hit. And to get back on track, she’ll need to muster up courage and determination that’ll make her Slam success seem easy-peasy.
On the eve of the all-important WTA 1000 Mutua Madrid Open, she was forced to withdraw due to a wrist injury.
Another injury. Another interruption. Another setback.
And another challenge: rehabbing her body and, much more importantly, her mindset (read: her confidence).
Here’s the transcript from her press conference on April 26. As tennis commentator Jose Morgado pointed out on Twitter, she spoke a total of 58 words in response to 16 questions. Her most verbose answer was 14 words.
Emma’s fed up. To her, it’s Groundhog Day.
Since summer 2021, when she popped up out of nowhere to become one of the biggest (instant) stars in tennis history, it’s been one challenge after another.
Zipping from No. 338 to No. 23 in the span of about 10 weeks was an exhilarating sweet dream that ended up careening out of control and straight into a rude awakening in 2022 and 2023. Her 23–26 record since her win in NYC 19 months ago has even expelled her from the Top 100.
It’s like the iconic intro to ABC’s Wide World of Sports: the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.
The months after her US Open title were a lot more exciting in the media than on the courts. Remember the avalanche of partnerships that thundered down?
Brands jostled to get face time with the unknown who’d speared ten opponents without dropping a set.
A star was born.
But all too often, we fail to see the important and immovable clause in invisible ink in every contract: the obligation to deliver.
When the wins aren’t there, all players’ two sworn enemies—doubt and stress—begin to haunt them on the court. Add injury, the third foe lurking behind almost every stroke and stride, and you have the perfect storm. That’s besides the numerous coaching changes that can make a bad situation worse.
Emma Raducanu’s collapse—because that’s really what it is—is tough to watch.
The British press especially is unforgiving. It’s almost as if she’s being blamed for falling short of all the affection she was instantly afforded as the sport’s newest darling. Take it one step further and she’d be criticized for winning in the first place and signing all the lucrative deals that came to her on a silver platter.
Last summer, The Sun published a list of her assets valued at more than £8 million (C$13.5 million), complete with an image highlighting how her tennis partnerships were worth significantly less than the rest.
Missing from the list were three more eminent brands: Evian, Porsche and Vodaphone.
A few weeks ago, Tennis Canada posted my blog on Canadian performance psychologist Dana Sinclair.
And as she mentioned, the skills that carried Emma Raducanu to her incredible breakthrough didn’t magically disappear. She still possesses them, and she needs to get back to that mindset.
But that’s easier said than done.
We can only hope she regains her form, her passion for tennis and the concentration she needs to deliver on her tremendous talent, as well as the serenity and mental toughness to handle the inevitable consequences of renewed success.
So that her US Open trophy doesn’t end up a poisoned chalice.
For months, some frustrated fans have been labelling Emma a one-hit wonder, while others have shown a lot of empathy and don’t think she should ever regret her US Open run—an achievement no one can ever take away from her.
Most are hoping she gets healthy and finds joy in tennis again. And rightly so.
2023 NBO: 100 DAYS AND COUNTING
In less than 100 days, the National Bank Open presented by Rogers gets rolling in Montréal (WTA) and Toronto (ATP).
I’ll be sitting down with tournament director Valérie Tétreault very soon for an update on how things are going.
The event features ten days of activities, the last seven of which are dedicated to the singles and doubles draws. As for the first three days, which are reserved for the qualifying rounds and other tennis happenings, I’ll tell you why they’re just as important as they are festive for fans, old and new.
NBO SOUVENIR PHOTO
At the NBO, the work (and fun) hours are long.
But on a sunny day, the volunteers and ticketholders who leave IGA Stadium in the early evening are in for a treat as they make their way across Parc Jarry: a picture-perfect tranquil setting at the end of a sweltering day, much like this one on August 11, 2022, around 7:30 p.m.
It’s one last break after a rousing day of tennis.