Emma Raducanu is targeting a return to action at the Citi Open in Washington, DC, which begins July 30, and will also feature Wimbledon semi-finalist Simona Halep, Leylah Fernandez, Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens and joker Sofia Kenin , among others, during the combined ATP/WTA hard-court tournament.
There is no pressure. Like, why is there pressure? I’m still 19. Like, it’s a joke. I literally won a Slam. Coming back to New York, it’s going to be cool because I have a lot of experience playing on big fields, playing with people in the stadium, playing with the spotlight on you. That does not bother me. I mean, for me, everything is learned. I embrace every moment thrown at me. Emma Raducanu
The stacked men’s and women’s squads include 3 former world No. 1 players, 6 Grand Slam champions, 4 former Citi Open titlists, 3 Olympic gold medalists and 10 Top 20 players.
The Citi Open is one of only 5 combined tennis tournaments in America, featuring both men’s and women’s professional competitions.
The revived WTA 250 tournament will feature 32 singles competitors and 16 doubles teams.
“I’m thrilled that the Citi Open is bringing back its WTA tournament and I’m really excited to compete on the DC courts for the first time,” Raducanu said. “The past year has been an unforgettable time in my tennis career, and I look forward to adding new memories in Washington this summer.”
After Raducanu’s second-round exit from Wimbledon, much has been said about the prospects for the British No.1, who is now No. 10 in the world, defending the 2,000 points she earned by winning the US Open last September.
Despite being beaten by Caroline Garcia, 6-3 6-3, on center court at Wimbledon, Raducanu climbed one spot in the WTA rankings due to a quirk in the ranking system.
With no ranking points available at Wimbledon, players like Czech Karolina Pliskova, the losing 2021 runner-up, dropped out of the top 10 as last year’s points were removed, allowing Raducanu to earn a square.
However, the 19-year-old from Bromley risks dropping out of the world top 50 by mid-September if her form does not improve on the North American hard court and she fails to successfully defend her crown at the US Open. .
She said any pressure on her to win majors all the time was a “joke”, while pundits questioned her team’s coaching turnover.
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Andrew Castle, the former UK No 1 and BBC commentator said: “The obvious question is whether this would happen if Emma Raducanu had [coach] Andrew Richardson, who was at his side for the race at the US Open?
“Would she benefit from having someone permanent?” Does she do anything good?
“How come she makes so many millions and there’s a photoshoot every other day?”
“There are all these questions. I don’t know the answers. I don’t know if Emma Raducanu does either. It’s only been around for a year.
“You’re unlucky with a major but, at some point, she will have to raise her level and ask herself some very serious questions,” he added.
“I wish her the best of luck – I have no idea what’s going to happen next in her career. She’s won a major, the pressure should be on those who haven’t.
“The attention will be there. With the success she’s had, the spotlight was always going to be there. She seems to be handling it well.
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Another former UK No. 1, Laura Robson, believes Raducanu’s victory at the US Open has opened new doors for tennis in the UK, which will ensure that her legacy lives on well beyond her first win. in Grand Slam last year.
“I did this interview with Wimbledon for a local primary school and asked the kids who their favorite player was and almost all of them said Emma,” Robson recently told Tennis 365. “It’s so cool. Just to have this inspiring figure to admire.
“They all watched the US Open last year, and they couldn’t wait to see her at Wimbledon, and it’s cool that in five years they’ve seen Emma grow up, and they’ll be teenagers themselves by now. the.
“There is no doubt that Emma had a huge impact on young people. They see what she achieved at the US Open and they want to try tennis. It’s very good for our sport.”
Robson then backed Raducanu to silence his doubters and make an even bigger impression at the top of the game, after a year that saw her struggle to reach the heights she reached when she won in New York.
“She’s so exciting to watch,” Robson added. “She’s there with them and just needs a good set of training and competition to get her body used to playing week after week.
“It seems strange to talk about Emma and say she needs to win games because she’s only in the first year of her career.
“She’s been at the top of her game before, and I have no doubt she’ll get back to that level once she has a run of games,” she added.
“I see her at the National Tennis Center and she always works so hard, so her time will come.
“She’s still so young, and we shouldn’t worry about someone who has already won a Grand Slam title.”
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Raducanu deflects the so-called “pressure” placed on her to do well in New York, saying, “There is no pressure. Like, why is there pressure? I’m still 19. Like, it’s a joke. I literally won a Slam.
“Coming back to New York is going to be cool because I have a lot of experience playing on big grounds, playing with people in the stadium, playing with the spotlight on you.
” That does not bother me. I mean, for me, everything is learned. I embrace every moment thrown at me.
His preparation on grass was limited to just 7 games due to a stomach injury in Nottingham, and Raducanu was keen to put the loss against Garcia into perspective.
“Coming into this, I didn’t really have a lot of expectations of myself,” she said after the loss. “Playing on center court again was, again, a really positive experience for me. So, yes, I can move forward.
“I declared myself in great shape when I went out on the court on the first day. But I played seven hours of tennis in a month.
“Even to compete with these girls at this level and win a round, I think, is a very good achievement.
Reflecting on the match, Raducanu added: “I think it was first-time tennis. She served really well today. I didn’t really look, I felt like, a lot of second serves Even when I did, they were tricky with the wind holding them up.
“I think in terms of serving, my ball speed was just lower in general. I don’t know. Maybe it was the conditions. But I just didn’t have enough ball speed today .
Raducanu’s 2022 season has been plagued by minor injuries, which have kept her from gaining momentum on tour, and she insists she’s learning every week as she faces different players who know better. his game than they did at the start of the year.
“Of course it will make me a better player, because they just point out all my weaknesses,” she said. “Then when you do it on a big pitch like that, it’s definitely amplified.
“It’s just been great for me to have all of these lessons at such a young age so that when I’m in my twenties I have these issues, or little glitches, in my game sorted out.
“I’m just going to get better. I’m just going to look at what’s wrong, what are my weaknesses, improve them. It’s good for me.
“These lessons come every week. It’s just a reminder that you have to do this, this and that. It comes from different actors, so it just highlights it.
“For me, it’s just something to improve.”
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Johanna Konta, who retired as Britain’s No.1 last December, was quick to defend Raducanu as well, saying: “She definitely exhibits modern maturity in her knowledge of herself, of what what she wants to do and where she wants to go.
“What she said is a fact, she is a Grand Slam champion and she is 19 years old, so these are just facts she said.
“She has every right to say these facts. In terms of pressure, again, the pressure is very well absorbed and dealt with individually.
“I think it’s great if she’s able to digest the situation that way and see it in a way that it’s just part of the job and actually it’s not a big deal,” she added.
“Caroline Garcia played a great game, she was just the best player that day,” Konta concluded.
Since her incredible breakthrough becoming US Open champion last September, Raducanu has struggled to replicate the form she showed at Flushing Meadows.
Despite this, Konta believes the 19-year-old’s tennis will only ‘get better’.
Calling for patience, she added: “Obviously Emma is going to keep working to improve physically and improve her tennis. So it’s going to take time and I think we all know that.
John McEnroe has been outspoken and critical of Raducanu at times, but tempered his tone in a recent interview with Tennis 365: “I’m not close to her. In reality. In fact, I never spoke to him.
“I hope to get the opportunity soon because she is obviously a breath of fresh air. She is a very nice girl, a beautiful girl and she plays tennis very well. love,” the 62-year-old said.
“It’s been hard watching her struggle, but I don’t know if she needs time, she needs the right stability and people around her, and I don’t know what’s going on there.
“Nobody wins a major tournament if they’re not a great player and hopefully she believes in that, but a lot has changed for her since then.
“You don’t go through a tournament where you don’t drop a single set and beat some of the top players, and not be a great player.”
With his attention now firmly fixed on the hard court swing, Raducanu said: “I want to start my hard court preparations. I think Washington would be a great place to do that. Last year I played a lot of games before.
After Washington, Raducanu plans to play the National Bank Open, which will take place in Toronto, followed by the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, after which there will be 2 WTA 250 events in Cleveland, USA and Granby, Canada, before the US Open kicks off August 29.