IIf there’s one thing Emma Raducanu’s career has unequivocally validated since her US Open triumph, it’s how difficult it is to be a professional tennis player. The physical strain is significant each week, injury problems are so common that few players ever function at 100% and only the strongest retain their place at the top.
Right now, as expected, Raducanu has a long way to go. Last week in Prague her latest injury problems were blisters on her foot. A summary of how she’s fared since the US Open is largely a long list of such setbacks. She suffered an illness at her final tournaments in 2021, her break from the season was canceled out by Covid, blisters on her hand forced her to do her one-handed backhand slices at the Australian Open, in February she had to give up in Monterrey after a hip injury In Indian Wells an injury followed and a stiff back.
These are predictable obstacles for a player trying to handle the physical demands of top-level despite having barely competed in lower-level ITF tournaments, but they’re also a common theme in Raducanu’s young career. One of the reasons the 19-year-old had competed in so few events compared to her peers even before last year was because injuries kept her sidelined.
Back at Wimbledon, Raducanu touted the numerous minor injuries she had sustained which meant she could watch from the sidelines as her peers climbed the rankings much faster than them. She described herself as a player who was “always held back by something.” Even as a Grand Slam title winner, that hasn’t stopped yet.
“She’s young, she hasn’t had a full year of touring yet,” said Anne Keothavong, the captain of Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup team in the Czech Republic. “For any young player who’s out there for the first time, what she’s achieved has been extraordinary.
“It takes time to adjust to life on the tour and become more robust. It definitely needs to be more robust. That’s no secret. She knows that. She’s working on it.”
Still, there is plenty of optimism. In Prague, for example, Raducanu overcame number 50 Tereza Martincová 7-5, 7-5 to claim his first victory on clay. While frustration seemed to have taken its toll earlier in the year, Raducanu and her teammates seemed to be genuinely enjoying the team atmosphere, and even if the quality lacks compared to other nations, Keothavong has helped cultivate a positive vibe.
That’s the nature of the tour, it doesn’t stop for anyone. Raducanu flew straight to Stuttgart for the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, one of the toughest WTA events of the season, in the morning. The tournament features seven of the top nine players. Although it remains to be seen how her footing will hold up, Raducanu was in the draw on Sunday.
Last week was also notable for the absence of the Russian and Belarusian teams, with the former team being the defending Billie Jean King Cup champions. As the tour continues to draw to a close, talks are still ongoing over whether the large contingent of Russian and Belarusian players will be allowed to compete at Wimbledon, Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Scott Lloyd said in Prague.
“Discussions are ongoing with the government and their counterparts in other countries,” Lloyd said. “There is no fixed position. The government has provided guidance to all sports on how we should try to tackle some of these challenges, ranging from a total ban to very robust declarations on behalf of individuals.
“We must try to work through what the impact and implications of trying to implement these guidelines are.
“We are currently working very closely with the All England Club on this day in, day out.”
Players potentially affected include US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, two-time Major champion Victoria Azarenka, Aryna Sabalenka and Andrey Rublev, all of whom are currently competing as neutrals. Unlike other sports in Russia, the best tennis players employ their own individual teams, live abroad and are not funded by the Russian or Belarusian state.
“It’s an enormously complex situation,” Lloyd said. “I think we can all agree if we find the actions we see in our newspapers and TV screens, it’s absolutely abhorrent. In truth the talks are ongoing, we are in very close dialogue with the All England Club, the government, with the tours. We are very aware of public opinion in this area. We’re trying to steer how that has to look at the summer events in the UK this year.”