New star or shooting star? The question comes up regularly in women’s tennis where many young players, such as Olena Ostapenko, Bianca Andreescu, Sofia Kenin, Iga Swiatek or Barbora Krejcikova, have struggled in recent years to confirm a first Grand Slam title. The question arises, arises, concerning Emma Raducanu, 19 years old since November 13, emerged from nothing this summer at Wimbledon, victorious at the US Open in September and who has since signed more advertising contracts (four) What victories (two).
The young Englishwoman is in Melbourne to compete in the Australian Open with the status of seed number 18. The fate, mischievous, designated her in the first round another of these winners for a day, the American Sloane Stephen , titled in New York in 2017 and has since fallen to 68th in the world. The Floridienne, who married American international footballer Jozy Altidore on January 1, is soon 29 years old and has a busy career, rich in a second Grand Slam final (lost, at Roland-Garros 2018), a semi-final at the Australian Open, six singles titles and a third place in the world in July 2018. Enough to be sure to leave without regret when the time comes.
To read again: At the US Open, Emma Raducanu writes the story
Emma Raducanu’s situation is very different, rare, complex. She accomplished the ultimate dream of every tennis player before anything else: before she was prepared for it, before she had even won a single match on the WTA Tour, before she had truly found “her” tennis, a process intimate that can take years. It’s the icing without the cake, the roof before the foundations. She won, in the most indisputable way possible (by lining up ten straight victories, from qualifying to the final, without losing the slightest set) but as we go through a state of grace, without being sure of being able to reproduce this game level one day.
Federer had done the same
Everything since then has been weird. She thus made her comeback in October at the WTA 1000 in Indian Wells, a tournament which normally takes place in March but which had been postponed to the fall due to an epidemic. She benefited from both a wild card to enter the table, determined according to criteria several weeks prior to her victory in New York, and a seeded status, awarded according to the latest results. She thus began in night session, favorite against Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, a former world top 30, anything but a gift, who swept her cleanly (6-2 6-4).
She showed up in California without a coach, having just fired Andrew Richardson, who had taken her to the top, on the grounds that she would now need “someone more experienced”. This decision was badly perceived by public opinion and the charming Emma tasted for the first time the bitter reverse of fame. She was considered ungrateful, forgetting that Roger Federer had taken much the same decision in December 2003 when he separated from Peter Lundgren. “Why change something that works?” asked Mike Joyce, the man who had accompanied a very young Maria Sharapova to world number one.
Joyce was probably unaware that Emma Raducanu’s family has always operated like this. His parents, two financial executives from the City, don’t need money, don’t get along very well in tennis but never hesitate to question the certainties of the experts or to multiply points of view. “The task will necessarily be difficult for his next coach,” insists Mike Joyce. This has been the problem of Torben Beltz, former coach of Angelique Kerber, since December.
Focus on tennis
Without him, Emma Raducanu won the first two matches of her career on the WTA circuit in November in Cluj. Then she relapsed in November in Linz, facing the young Chinese Wang Xinui (103rd in the world). With her new coach, she has just taken 6-0 6-1 against Kazakh Elena Rybakina on January 11 in Sydney, after missing two tournaments due to covid. She found the strength to smile (“At the end, I especially wanted to avoid the 6-0 6-0”) and to train right behind.
His post-US Open record stands at four losses in six games. Emma Raducanu has only won two games in four months. Over the same period, she signed four sponsorship contracts with international brands: Tiffany, Dior, Evian and British Airways. She has also been seen at the Met Gala in New York, at the James Bond premiere at the Royal Albert Hall and performing doubles with the Duchess of York. She swears that success has not made her lose sight of the main thing, tennis, but her agent, Max Eisenbud, who knew Maria Sharapova at the same age, fears something that did not exist in 2004: “The networks social. They speed everything up,” he explained to the New York Times.
She had 10,000 followers on her Instagram account in June, 2.1 million in September. Her origins (Romanian by her father, Chinese by her mother) are potentially bombs: immigrant in the era of Brexit, Chinese in the middle of the Peng Shuai affair, Emma Raducanu has every interest in concentrating on tennis.
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