London | Just give Raducanu a chance…

Speculation over Emma Raducanu’s fitness grew as the 19-year old missed a practice session on No 1 Court with Garbiñe Muguruza on Friday, fuelling rumours that the British No 1 might be about to pull out of The Wimbledon Championships, which start on Monday.

What's being said in the newspapers, or on social media or television, you can't control it, so why worry about it? ... Her tennis ability is there for everyone to see. The challenge for her is to build up this physical robustness. But she's 19, she's got so many opportunities ahead of her. Tim Henman

Raducanu’s team informed officials at late notice that she would not be walking out to the arena, where the world’s media and photography were left waiting.

An update on Raducanu’s fitness is expected on Saturday.

Raducanu’s decision to cancel her session at such short notice left organisers scrambling to find a replacement to hit with Muguruza and Britain’s latest recruit, Yuriko Miyazaki, who recently switched her nationality from Japan, stepped up onto court to oblige.

Pundits have had plenty to say about Raducanu’s prospects this year, and over her coaching arrangements, while some encourage fans to give the player time to adjust to the rigours of the women’s tour and lower expectations at the Grand Slams.

Raducanu has turned to her former coach as a junior, Jane O’Donoghue, to help her through Wimbledon as she hopes to bounce back after retiring at the Nottingham Open 3 weeks ago after just 7 games with a left side strain.

A close friend of the family, O’Donoghue, who had a long spell with the LTA before leaving prior to the pandemic to pursue a career in banking, was with Raducanu as she trained earlier in the week at Wimbledon’s Aorangi Park practice complex.

The two are close friends and watched the men’s final together at Wimbledon last year.

O’Donoghue, a former player who was ranked in the top 200 and twice made it into the 2nd-round at Wimbledon in 2004 and 2005, has been at Raducanu’s side for several weeks in the absence of a full-time coach.


Emma Raducanu speaks with coach Jane O'Donoghue during their training session at the All England Club

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Meanwhile, news broke this week that Raducanu is planning to study at Cambridge after reportedly being offered a place at the university, according to her grandmother Niculina Raducanu, who spoke to the MailOnline from Bucharest, Romania.

She plans to study Economics, having always considered her education a high priority and achieving top A-level results in Maths and Economics last summer, just weeks before she swept to her historic US Open victory in New York.

“I know she wants to go to university to study economics as soon as she has the time,” Niculina Raducanu told the Mail. “Cambridge University offered her the possibility to take classes there. They said she is welcome any time.”

The retired primary school teacher, who is 89, added: “It is my wish for her to continue her education but it is also her wish. She will do both tennis and university – but she needs to be strong in order to do both.

“Emma has always split her life between practice and school. She is planning to honour her university offer as soon as she can.

“Money comes and goes, but an education will never go away.”


HSBC announced a 4-year sponsorship deal with Emma Raducanu last week

HSBC

Raducanu has already amassed a fortune winning the US Open and landing several lucrative endorsements, including Tiffany, Dior, Vodafone, Porsche, HSBC and Evian.

Both she and her agent insist that the sponsorship commitments of one of the most marketable athletes in the world are not a distraction to her on-court aspirations.

Max Eisenbud insists her off-court activities are not to blame for Raducanu’s results in 2022.

“It’s been a tough year,” Eisenbud told on the BBC Sports. “I think she got a lot of bad luck and what really hurt her was [catching] Covid and not having a great off-season, and then she was playing catch up.

“But I think that if she had zero shoot dates, everything would be the same.

“I know from the outside, you guys want to look at all those things – but if she locked herself in the room for the whole year and didn’t do anything, I think it would be the same.

“We could have done 50 days of shoots. I’ve never seen the amount of excitement and companies that wanted to be in business with Emma after the US Open,” Eisenbud added.

Nevertheless, Raducanu has struggled all season, fighting physical niggles while staying healthy has also been an issue.


Emma Raducanu has been training ahead of The Championships on Monday

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Now, seeded 10, Raducanu has a difficult opener at Wimbledon on Monday against Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck, who is ranked 46th in the world and has been on a winning streak, winning the grass court titles at Surbiton and Gaiba.

Raducanu has until her match on Monday afternoon to decide whether she is fit enough to compete.

A win would set up a 2nd-round meeting with either Miyazaki, the British No 6, or France’s Caroline Garcia, while the first seed she could potentially face in the 3rd-round is No 33 Zhang Shuai from China after the 19th-seeded Madison Keys, of the United States, pulled out of the draw on Saturday after suffering an abdominal injury.

Being a Brit playing at Wimbledon brings untold pressure, while it has been 45-years since a female won at the home Grand Slam, and that was Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977, Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee year, raising expectations even higher.

Raducanu made history in New York, as a qualifier who did not drop a set at Flushing Meadows, becoming the first British female player to win a Grand Slam singles crown since Wade.

Making her debuts at the Australian Open and French Open in this, her very first year on tour, Raducanu managed to reach the 2nd-rounds, and she admits she has done things ‘backwards’ by winning a Grand Slam so early in her career as she settles into life as a full-time professional.

“For that to happen very soon definitely comes with a lot of challenges,” she said. “But managing, learning and growing through the adversities that I have faced, I would much rather have that, learn from those experiences and keep building and progressing.”


Tim Henman has been mentoring Emma Raducanu ahead of Wimbledon

© Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Retired British player Tim Henman, who sat court-side during Raducanu’s US Open run, has been advising her on how to cope with being the home star at Wimbledon.

“What’s being said in the newspapers, or on social media or television, you can’t control it, so why worry about it?” said the former Wimbledon semi-finalist. “When you’re young and you haven’t had the experience, that’s not always easy but, when I think of her mental fortitude, with the way that she played in New York, going through those 10 matches, she’s incredibly strong mentally,” he told the PA news agency.

“Her tennis ability is there for everyone to see. The challenge for her is to build up this physical robustness. But she’s 19, she’s got so many opportunities ahead of her.”

World No 4 Paula Badosa has urged British fans to turn down the pressure on Raducanu, backing her to adjust to life on the WTA Tour.

“She needs time, and she needs more experience on tour, and she will get it,” she said. “People have to stop putting all this pressure on her, and expectations.

“What she did is play very well at one Grand Slam and she won it, so you can see how good she is.”

BBC pundit John Lloyd agrees, telling tennis365.com: “Let’s presume she is going to play and, if she does what she does last year, and gets to the last-16, that would be a big bonus.

“Anything after that would be a magnificent feat and I personally don’t think it’s going to happen. If it does, that would be great, but I don’t think she is in a position right now to have a big run at Wimbledon.

“She had a Rocky style entrance to the tennis world and, all of a sudden, she is a mega star. It’s a big jump for her.

“I think she has reacted pretty well overall. People thought she could keep winning, but that wasn’t realistic. Her body is not accustomed to the brutality of the tour and she is playing catch-up.

“I’m not a big fan of the roundabout of coaching she has gone through, but I don’t think she is a one-Slam wonder. I think she will win more, but it will take her time to sort it out and learn the ropes a little bit more.”


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