STILL injured and world No 285, can Emma Raducanu EVER thrill again?

Emma Raducanu is STILL injured and is now world’s No 285, yet rakes in £10MILLION in off-court deals – while earning £200,000 on it… as she turns 21, can she EVER thrill the world again?

  • Emma Raducanu is hoping to return after undergoing wrist and ankle surgery 
  • The Brit has deals with big companies like Nike, Porsche, Vodafone and Evian
  • Raducanu last played at the Stuttgart Open in April, losing to Jelena Ostapenko 

Emma Raducanu turns 21 on Monday and, in a parallel universe, she might have been building up to that landmark birthday with a rare appearance playing in the UK.

Had she not been beset by so many hiatuses since winning the US Open she could have lined up in Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup team to face Sweden this weekend at London’s Copper Box.

Had she maintained even just a steady if unspectacular trajectory since her astonishing US Open triumph in 2021, then the interest she generated might have meant a larger venue would be required for this relatively low-key match.

Instead her focus will be on quietly continuing her rehab from three minor surgeries which have prevented her from playing since April, and seen her ranking fall to a humble 285.

Hers have been no ordinary 21 years despite, by tennis standards, the first 18 of them maintaining a sense of normality that concluded with her A-levels. Achieving something so monumental so young would always bring huge challenges, and these are not abating.

Emma Raducanu has not been able to get on the court since April due to reoccurring injuries

Raducanu posted pictures after she underwent wrist surgery to combat her injury issues

The Brit is an ambassador for famous German car brand Porsche and was pictured at Battersea Power Station for an opening event in October

It is understood that plans for her comeback have fallen behind schedule following a setback in the wrist area about six weeks ago, and it is now highly doubtful that she will play in an exhibition event in Macau that was due to see her return on December 2.

The hope remains that she will be back for the start of next season, in Auckland ahead of the Australian Open, but she has yet to put in any kind of sustained hours on the practice court, restricting herself mainly to gym work and the odd hit with softer balls.

This is being done mainly at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, with the assistance of the Lawn Tennis Association’s general coaching and fitness staff. Insiders report that she cuts a more withdrawn figure these days while going about her business.

Putting a protective shell around herself is perhaps a natural reaction to the massively elevated levels of scrutiny that came after 2021, that summer of a remarkable and so far isolated breakthrough.

There is still no sign of a dedicated coach or support operation in attendance, despite an accumulation of wealth that would make such a team comfortably affordable.

The deeply ambivalent attitude towards coaches by her and her father Ian has been well documented, and her promising relationship with German Sebastian Sachs ended this summer. They were reluctant to keep paying him while she was out of the game after the surgeries to her wrists and ankle in early May.

What has been arguably more baffling to those who genuinely want to see her fulfil a huge potential has been the choice not to employ her own fitness and physio personnel, given her persistent physical problems.

Tim Henman, who was one of the key figures around her dramatic triumph at Flushing Meadows, points to sorting out this baseline necessity.

Raducanu has gone through a succession of five coaches in the last few years as she searches for the right fit

Raducanu during her last match against Latvian player Jelena Ostapenko at the Stuttgart Open

The world number 285 lost that match in two sets 6-2, 6-1, and hasn’t appeared on court since

‘It is above all about the physical side and building the resilience to stand up to the demands of the tour week in, week out,’ Henman tells Mail Sport.

‘She has always been different with coaches and some people like to do things differently in an individual sport. I have absolutely no doubts about her tennis ability, but it’s the physical side and building that base around you.

‘It is the fundamental requirement in the modern game and she needs to be using this time to create that. Jack Draper (her equally talented British contemporary) has realised the importance of this and you are seeing him reap the benefits.

‘Perhaps she needs to look at what Jack has been doing. Everyone wants her to succeed and you just hope she will make the right choices to achieve what she is capable of. Emma should take her time.’

Henman is just one of the key personnel from that heady fortnight in New York with whom she now has little contact. Coach Andrew Richardson was dropped almost immediately, while Chris Helliar, her agent and confidant from management company IMG, is no longer working with her.

As for physio Will Herbert, who did such a vital job keeping her body together at the US Open, he is now working with Draper, who won a tournament in Italy last week.

The recruitment of highly regarded fitness trainer Jez Green as consultant a year ago never amounted to much, and he confirmed this week that he has not been involved for many months.

The one survivor of her inner circle from New York is the LTA’s head of women’s tennis, Iain Bates. He has served as a locum for her and continues to do so, although he has a wide range of other responsibilities to fulfil.

Raducanu shocked the world to win the US Open in 2021 at just 18 years of age, beating Leylah Fernandez 6-4 6-3 in the final

She is in the top 10 of Forbes’ rich list of tennis players and the second highest-earning female after bringing in an estimated £10million

After winning the US Open the then 18-year-old had to go back to school to finish her A Levels

‘She is one of our top players and we are very happy to try and help her get back to where she wants to be,’ Bates tells Mail Sport. ‘From what I have seen she looks motivated and committed for the challenges ahead.’

Make no mistake that these will be considerable, especially as any hiring of a team will not be made any easier by the widely reported pronouncements this year of Raducanu and her manager, Max Eisenbud, about coaches.

While the player stated that some of them struggle to keep up with her questions, Eisenbud admitted that the philosophy of extracting knowledge on a short-term basis would likely endure for the rest of her career.

She and her father can rightly argue that this approach once led her to extraordinary heights although, as one of her many former coaches told Mail Sport, technical changes have probably contributed to injuries.

It should be said, nonetheless, that those who have worked with Raducanu speak well of her, both as a person and a pupil.

The underlying issue is that breaking through is one thing, while sustaining performance on an unforgiving circuit is something entirely different.

The modern history of the tour, with all the pressures it exerts on a young athlete, shows that those who thrive tend to be those with a stable and reliable set-up which provides consistent support through good times and bad.

Also, wise heads will be needed to plot the way back up the rankings, with Raducanu’s notoriety making opponents doubly desperate to claim her as a trophy win.

Raducanu appeared in a video for one of her sponsors HSBC, reading children’s stories

Raducanu is the Gloabl Ambassador for water company Evian and is pictured here for them

Raducanu is also a Porsche brand ambassador, and has sponsorship deals with Nike, Wilson and Dior

A contrasting upside of being a former Grand Slam champion is that it provides you with a golden ticket in terms of getting unlimited wildcards for significant WTA events — the privileged tournament entries that have proved especially useful for Andy Murray’s comebacks, as an example.

Yet there may be a scenario in which Raducanu would be better served by playing lower-tier tournaments to gain matchplay. If this happens will her commercial interests be a consideration, playing in humble surroundings before small crowds?

You wonder how the likes Porsche or Dior will view one of their endorsers grinding away at somewhere like Shrewsbury, or a provincial town in France.

Some of these brands, who she is obliged to plug for her 2.5 million followers on social media, will drop her in the coming years while others will remain more faithful. She also has had deals with Tiffany and Co, Amazon Prime, HSBC, Vodafone, British Airways, Evian, Wilson and Nike.

She is in the top 10 of Forbes’ rich list of tennis players and the second highest-earning female after bringing in an estimated £10million or so in the last year. Just £195,000 of that has come through official prize money in 2023 with the rest made up via sponsorship deals.

Ultimately much will depend on whether she can find a way to prosper in tennis, a results-driven meritocracy.

Raducanu as a baby. She is still just about to turn 21 and should have a long career ahead of her

Raducanu released pictures of her working out as she prepares to get back on court soon

The 20-year-old is yet to put in any kind of sustained hours on the practice court, restricting herself mainly to gym work and the odd hit with softer balls.

She is certainly among the chosen few who have the God-given talent. One veteran coach on the women’s tour, whose player faced her before her latest round of injuries, speaks of how impressed they were with Raducanu’s raw ability, and firmly believes that she has the attributes to become a fixture around the top 10.

It is handling everything else that goes with it, especially for one who is, admirably, engaged by many things beyond tennis, from business to art to learning the piano. She has spoken of not needing to rush her career.

You suspect the potential outcomes for Raducanu are as wide-ranging as they could possibly be.

This could mean quitting in the next few years to pursue something altogether different, it could see her reaching a tennis level of well-remunerated flatlining, or it could mean reaching for the stars once again.

Doing it her own way, at 21 the world remains open to her.

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