Two legends of the game have forecast a difficult season for Emma Raducanu, as she looks to build on that astonishing victory at September’s US Open.
Offering predictions for 2022, the nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova suggested that Raducanu’s peers now know how she plays and where to target her, while the 1980s doubles giant Pam Shriver expressed doubt that Raducanu would finish the year in the world’s top 20.
Inexperience is the key word here. As Navratilova pointed out, in an interview published by the Women’s Tennis Association website, “It’s going to be hard for her this year. Players have seen her, they know what to do against her. But most of all, she just needs matches. She’s the biggest wildcard for me. Because clearly, she has the ability to play great tennis.
“Can she replicate it consistently enough?” Navratilova added. “Eight WTA-level tournaments in her life? That’s half a season. I’d go into Wimbledon with 10, 12 matches under my belt. It’s going to be so much to handle physically, playing more matches, but everybody’s going to be gunning for her – that’s the thing that’s going to look good on their resume.”
Navratilova also questioned the decision to part so soon with Andrew Richardson, the softly spoken coach who worked with Raducanu during the US Open triumph, but was not re-engaged thereafter. In November, Raducanu signed a new coach in the shape of Germany’s Torben Beltz, who had previously spent much of his career working with 2018 Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber.
“To me, that she let go of the coach that got her to the US Open was unfathomable,” said Navratilova, before mentioning the spotlight that is always trained on British prospects in the build-up to Wimbledon. “Being a Brit, she’s under a huge microscope, and it’s hard to get away from it.”
As former doubles partners who completed the calendar grand slam together in 1984, Navratilova and Shriver often share a similar outlook on the game. So it was in this instance, as Shriver suggested that we will not have an accurate sense of Raducanu’s overall potential for another couple of years.
“I think 2022 is going to continue to be a challenge,” said Shriver. “I think it’s going to be 2023 when we have a clearer idea of what her consistency level is going to be. I might be wrong, but it was such a sudden, unnatural step from qualifying to winning a major – never been done before – followed up by all these new business partnerships, recognition and coaching changes.
“The only thing that has remained the same is her name, the sport she plays and her agent,” Shriver added. “I feel like everything else around her has changed, and when you’re a teenager you’re already going through a lot of changes. I’d be surprised if she’s still in the Top 20 at the end of the year.”
Raducanu is training in Melbourne this week with Beltz, having been forced to pull out of her first WTA event of the season by the knock-on effects of a mild bout of Covid last month. She intends to return to competitive matchplay at next week’s Sydney Classic, which is to be followed a week later by the Australian Open itself.