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Clay has taught me how to experiment, play with the ball and the court dimensions: Raducanu looks ahead to Roland-Garros debut

Making her Roland-Garros debut, the 19-year-old Brit says she is learning how to adapt to clay, which she feels can be a strong surface for her in the time to come

Britain's Emma Raducanu in action at the WTA Italian Open in Rome Britain’s Emma Raducanu in action at the WTA Italian Open in Rome Image Credit: AI / Reuters / Panoramic

US Open champion Emma Raducanu is still learning to play on clay. The 19-year-old, who played her first clay court season, is all set to make her debut at Roland-Garros next week even as doubts linger about her physical fitness.

Raducanu posted a 5-4 win-loss record on clay this season, including 1-1 in Billie Jean King Cup action, and has had to deal with several injury niggles, including two mid-match retirements this season.

Now without a full-time coach, Raducanu says she has come much further than she expected on the surface and feels that it will suit her in the long run.

“I have definitely learnt that I can kind of adapt to this surface much faster than I probably thought, and, you know, about how to stay in the point and I think my movement on defense has also improved a bit. Just when to play with spin and when to actually hit it hard. You don’t have to always just grind it out. Sometimes you can put your hard court game on a clay court, as well. It’s just finding the balance. I think that clay definitely teaches you that.”

“I think that something that the clay has taught is how to experiment, play with the ball and the court dimensions. I think the dropshot is a pretty good shot to use in the game, especially on clay where people might sit back a little bit. I don’t particularly see myself as a dropshotter, chipper thing. I just think that what I’m doing is more me experimenting and having fun.”

“I think that when I said that six weeks ago, and I still think this, is that I could be a great clay court player, like looking forward, long, medium term, in a few years where I have definitely developed more robustness and I’m able to repeat the same shots over and over. To be honest, I think I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would. Clay at the beginning kind of was like written off, Oh, it’s a clay court, just have a go. But now I really believe that I can be good and faster than I thought it would be. I’m definitely looking forward for the coming clay court seasons.”

It feels good to be able to move freely and just like run around: Raducanu

Raducanu’s physical issues have also become a talking point when it comes to the young Brit, who is playing in her first full season on the pro tour. She was forced to pull out of her first-round match against Canada’s Bianca Andreescu in Rome but says after a few uncertain days, she is feeling much better now as she heads into the clay court Grand Slam.

“Last week after Rome, the match, I definitely had to slow down that week, but this week I have been training and luckily being able to practice all of the shots. I’m looking forward to continuing that, and it feels good to be able to move freely and just like run around. It’s quite fun. But that’s it. I have been preparing as normal the last few days.”

“I’m learning about my body, for sure, but I’m very happy to be continuing my preparations for the French Open and to be able to play this tournament and fortunately I didn’t have to miss this Grand Slam. That is definitely a really positive thing that I can because I really look forward to these big moments and the big tournaments. I’m looking forward to continuing.”

“It was definitely thrown into question. But, at the end of the day I’m just learning, feeling it out. I got the all clear to continue with preparations and see how things go.”

While she may be without a coach in Paris, Raducanu, who plays a qualifier in the first round at the French Open, is accompanied by her physio and says she is working on putting in place the right team for herself.

“At the moment, I’m traveling, like my physios, I’ve got Will who is here and Tom, Tom Cornish, who is back home and he traveled with me to Rome. They are definitely looking after me. I am putting together something like just figuring out what works physically, because that is obviously an element of my game that needs to be looked at.”

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