London | Hopes of hosting BJK Cup Finals and a Raducanu renaissance

Great Britain pushed 5th-ranked Czech Republic into a deciding doubles at the weekend before going down 3-2 and relegating the team into the Play-Offs in November for a chance to qualify for the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup competition, unless the LTA is successful in its bid to host the 2022 Finals, which comes with a wild-card for the home nation.

Emma knows, her team knows, that we have always been, and will continue to be there to support her. It is going to be, in some ways, a very tough year, a tough summer for her, in terms of her profile. It is only a year ago she was sitting her A Levels! Emma needs to try to find what works for her in terms of how she navigates the tour, and the travelling. Scott Lloyd, LTA Chief Executive

While it would be contrary to normal practice, a nation having two opportunities to win the women’s team competition, these are unusual times.

“We want to try to broaden the visibility of our sport all year round, really drive home that this is not just a summer sport in Britain,” Scott Lloyd, the LTA’s Chief Executive said. “Visibility of elite-level tennis, we believe, helps change that perception.

“We’re keen to try to support the Billie Jean King Cup. If we’re successful, it really will bring a festival of tennis to Britain in the autumn.

“We know there is an inherent bias in the visibility of women’s sport, which we want to try to change.”

It seems a decision by the ITF on the venue for the Finals will not be announced for several weeks but, with Glasgow already hosting a group stage of the Davis Cup in September followed by the Laver Cup at The O2, a successful bid by the LTA would mean a bumper autumn of tennis for fans.

The group stage of the 2022 Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals will take place across 4 cities, Bologna, Glasgow and Hamburg on 14-18 September, with one more city to be announced before the draw on 26 April, followed by the knock-out stage in Malaga from 21-27 November.

The Laver Cup will take place at London’s 02 Arena from 23-25 September, but fans are shocked at the ticket pricing for the Europe versus the Rest of the World competition, to which both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have pledged their participation.

Both will represent Team Europe in a bid to win the Laver Cup against Team World for a 5th successive time under the leadership of captain Bjorn Borg.

Nadal and Federer paired up for their first and only doubles match at the inaugural Laver Cup in Prague back in 2017, delighting fans in the unique experience of seeing the long-time rivals becoming team-mates to beat Americans Sam Querrey & Jack Sock in 3 sets.

“I suggested to Roger we should play doubles together in London and he seems keen, so now we just need to persuade our captain Bjorn!” Nadal said after winning the Australian Open in January.

Federer, though, has been absent from competitive tennis since Wimbledon last summer, in a season during which he played just 5 events and won only 9 matches, 4 of them at Wimbledon itself.

Emma Raducanu's replica of the US Open trophy she won in September will tour the country ahead of Wimbledon

© Timothy A Clary/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, this summer, Emma Raducanu’s replica US Open trophy will be paraded around the country in the run-up to Wimbledon as the LTA is keen to show off the silverware to help inspire youngsters.

“We have been talking to Wimbledon as well about how that can get some profile during the Championships,” Lloyd said.

“It is going to be a very tough year for her, in terms of her profile,” Lloyd added. “It is only a year ago she was sitting her A Levels.

“You saw her navigate that last summer with incredible maturity. It is a learning experience.”

After her first BJK Cup experience on the match court, Raducanu is due to reunite this week with her coach Torben Beltz with an eye how best to tackle the clay-court swing for the first time.

Hampered physically by blisters on her feet contributed to a passive defeat on Saturday at the hands of the very experienced Marketa Vondrousova, the 2019 French Open finalist and Olympic silver medallist.

If Raducanu can recover in time, she will take her place in the main draw for the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart this week, which is owned by her newest sponsor.

Following that come the WTA 1000 tournaments in Madrid and Rome ahead of the French Open, where Raducanu will be making her senior debut.

Returning to British soil in June, the 19-year old is expected to play at the WTA event in Birmingham, with Nottingham and Eastbourne also possibilities, before making her return to Wimbledon, the scene of her breakthrough into public consciousness with a run to the 4th round last year.

Emma Raducanu, who suffered another set-back in her BJK Cup match on Saturday, is fully supported by Anne Keothavong, Team GB's Captain, and the LTA

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

It heralded a remarkable rise for the teenager who, according to the first set of accounts for her company, Harbour 6 Limited, only had £44 in the bank before pocketing £1.8million for winning the US Open last September

The company was set up in February 2020 with Raducanu as its sole director, and the accounts covered the period up to February 2021, showing that it held total assets of £55,682, but also revealed that creditors were owed £54,888, while an additional £750 was deducted as ‘provision for liabilities’, leaving net assets of just £44.

According to reports, Raducanu is now worth an estimated £4.1 million, which is remarkable for the World No 338, who first appeared on the radar at Wimbledon, and has since risen to No 12.

Expectations are now pressingly high for the 19-year old, who has up-coming ranking points to defend and sponsors to satisfy, not to mention fans to assuage.

Lloyd determined to give the LTA will give her all the support she needs as she looks to adapt to life on the WTA Tour.

“Emma knows, her team knows, that we have always been, and will continue to be there to support her,” he said. “It is going to be, in some ways, a very tough year, a tough summer for her, in terms of her profile.

“It is only a year ago she was sitting her A Levels!

“Emma needs to try to find what works for her in terms of how she navigates the tour, and the travelling.

“She has a long way to go in terms of starting to find herself, and learn what works for her, to deliver optimal performances.

“She knows what she wants to try and do. She is an incredible tennis player. I am sure she will go on to many more successes in the years to come.”

From L-R, Team GB's Anne Keothavong, Sonay Kartal, Harriet Dart, Emma Raducanu and Katie Swan after the deciding doubles match in Prague that sent the Czech Republic into the Billie Jean King Cup Finals

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

British Billie Jean King Cup team captain Anne Keothavong stated over the weekend that Raducanu needs to become more robust.

On Friday, the British No 1 impressively beat the more experienced Tereza Martincova, 7-5 7-5, in her first pro clay match, but she stood no chance against Vondrousova, hampered by blisters, as the Czech claimed an emphatic 6-1 6-1 victory.

Raducanu required a medical time-out at the end of the first set, and limped through the second before ultimately losing in straight sets.

Earlier this season, Raducanu has been hampered by blisters on her right hand at the Australian Open, endured a thigh issue in Mexico, and then dealt with a back issue at Indian Wells.

“It does take time for a player to get used to life on the tour, and become more robust, and she certainly needs to become more robust,” Keothavong said. “I don’t think that’s any secret and she’s working on it.

“The more she puts herself out there, the more she continues to test herself against the very best. She’ll figure out a way that works for her.

“Before the match, we were aware she had a blister, but it got progressively worse for her during the match,” Keothavong added. “There was no indication of anything that said to us that she couldn’t play, or that she wasn’t ready to go out there and give it her absolute best.”

While Harriet Dart then defeated Linda Fruhvirtova to send the tie into a decider, Team GB fell just short of completing a come-back after Vondrousova & Karolina Muchova out-gunned Dart & Katie Swan to bring the Czech side the crucial 3rd point.

“I do feel really proud of all the players, and the team effort that’s gone into this weekend,” Keothavong concluded. “The fact that we took it all the way down to the deciding rubber just shows how much guts and courage the players had today.

“Overall we came close but fell short.”

And just maybe, they will get another bite at the cherry if the LTA can secure the bid to host this year’s Billie Jean King Cup finals.

Team Europe's Roger Federer (L) and Rafael Nadal, seen here in Geneva in 2019, hope to reunite at the O2 in London for the 2022 edition of the Laver Cup in September

© Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images



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