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Raducanu’s Wimbledon preparations under a cloud after latest setback
Another injury has forced the US Open champion out of another tournament
This time last year, Emma Raducanu was playing a British tour event in Connaught. She had a quarter-final and semi-final scheduled on the same day, May 22nd (beating Alessia Popescu in a walkover in the morning, then losing to Katherine Barnes in the afternoon, 1-6, 6-1, 10-8).
Six weeks later, she caught the world’s attention as she made inroads into the Wimbledon draw before retiring dramatically mid-match in the fourth round against Ajla Tomljanovic with breathing difficulties.
By the middle of September, the then-18-year-old was a global superstar, blazing through the qualifying draw at the US Open to win the title – before joining the WTA Tour full-time.
Since then, though, she hasn’t managed to string together three wins in a row, and has been plagued by a series of injuries.
Able to play at Wimbledon
With the latest problem forcing her out of the Rothesay Open in Nottingham, there are question-marks over whether she will be fit in time for this year’s edition of Wimbledon, which begins in three weeks’ time. Tennis Majors understands that she expects to be able to play – but she will certainly miss the Rothesay Classic in Birmingham, which begins on Monday 13 June.
“It was disappointing to go out this week with a side injury and unfortunately will no longer be able to play in Birmingham. I’m looking forward to be back on the match court soon though to enjoy the rest of the grass season,” Raducanu said in a statement released to British press.
She had said after the French Open that she intended to play Birmingham but wasn’t sure what other tournaments she would enter as the grass-court season got under way.
“Maybe I will have a day, two days off here, or home and then, yeah, start training again and start looking forward to the grass and, you know, just keep improving,” she predicted.
Raducanu – I’ve grown a lot this year
“I think this year was always going to be challenging for me to adjust, find my feet,” she said in May after losing to Aliaksandra Sasnovich at Roland-Garros. “There’s always something new – like I’m always asking where everything is. I have no idea where everything is.
“It’s going to be a lot more familiar this time around [in her second full year on tour]. I feel like in the last 12 months I have definitely grown a lot. On and off the court I feel like I have probably improved like how much I fight. I think that’s one of my biggest strengths and even more so on the tour this year, and it’s definitely opened my eyes to just how good everyone is and how much depth there is in the game.
“I think that it has been a pretty positive year just because I have learnt so much, and I think that the amount of learning that I have kind of done outweighs any sort of result, to be honest.”
Raducanu – This injury is an absolute freak
Raducanu has been clear that she trusts the process; that she is concentrating on setting herself a routine and settling in to tour life rather than worrying too much about scorelines. However, the sheer number of physical problems she’s encountered must be cause for at least a little concern.
The blisters that troubled her in the hot, humid conditions in Melbourne for the Australian Open were perhaps unfortunate and understandable; the other issues hampering her movement have been forcing her out of competition. She added Nottingham to her list of retirements this week; the third time she had retired mid-match this year.
Well, why did you walk on to the court?
Pulling up with an injury to her left side in her first-round encounter with Viktorija Golubic, a medical timeout and a dose of painkillers didn’t help her overcome the problem. She retired from the match with just seven matches completed – but admitted she could well have pulled out earlier.
“I was thinking, ‘I don’t know how I am going to do this,'” Raducanu said after the match. “But if you do something in the first game people will be like, ‘Well, why did you walk on to the court?’ I tried to get through it, but in the second game I called the physio on and at the first changeover she was trying to do some work, but even from there she told me it was going to be really difficult to continue. You don’t want to stop after one or two games.”
The 19-year-old wouldn’t speculate on what the problem might be with her ribs, describing it as “an absolute freak”.
I was like, ‘This doesn’t feel right at all.’Emma Raducanu
“I think I pulled something. I’m not sure what happened, an absolute freak injury,” she said. “I was like, ‘This doesn’t feel right at all.’”
She added: “It could have just seized up and gone into spasm and then it is bad for a few days. I cannot diagnose myself, I will get it checked out. Then we will see from there.”
It follows her retirement during her match in Rome against Bianca Andreescu after an ongoing back injury that seemed to be giving her trouble in Madrid – where she lost in three sets 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 in the quarter-final to Anhelina Kalinina.
“After Madrid I thought that maybe taking one, two days off, it would just go away because a lot of the other small niggles I’ve had, they’ve kind of gone away after taking, like, two days off,” she said in Italy.
“Then I got here and I was training, but it just didn’t seem to get better. I was kind of training with some limitations – like I wasn’t moving really, I was just playing where I knew where the ball was coming, just staying in one corner. I think I must have underestimated the unpredictability of competition in a match, you have to react.”
‘The matches are taking more out of me than they should’
Interestingly she also speculated on what she thought might be causing her problems – despite coping well with her training load.
“It’s not the same when I’m playing these matches, because I definitely feel like the matches are taking a lot more out of me than they probably should,” she said.
“I had a match in Stuttgart, my first round, it was, like, 1-2, something, Love-1. I don’t know [editor note – it was 6-1, 6-2 against Storm Sanders of Australia]. Next day I felt like I was in bits! It became like a running joke.
“Yeah, it’s probably the match load, just getting used to it. Also back to back, just playing week in, week out. Looking back, since Fed Cup I’ve been home, like, for one day. It’s just been four weeks of constant getting ready for the next match, recovering. I think that everything is just taking a toll. It’s probably just my body crying out, needs a little break.”
The clear-eyed detailing of the arduous nature of the life of a professional athlete travelling the world is matter of fact. Raducanu may well be correct that these “niggles”, as she puts it, are inevitable as she gets used to the demands of her chosen career. A 19-year-old in her first year on tour will undoubtedly have to build up stamina and strength; it’s bad luck for Raducanu that she is in the unique position of making these adjustments in a harshest of spotlights – as a Grand Slam champion.