Emma Raducanu MBE has jetted off to the USA ahead of the Northern American hard-court swing, with a spring in her step as she prepares to defend her US Open title at the end of the month.
I used to be really shy, as a young girl, and playing tennis and beating the boys, and coming back when I was losing, that just brought me a lot of confidence. Yeah, I can say that I’m definitely more comfortable and outgoing now than I was when I was younger and, I think, tennis has brought me that. Emma Raducanu
Sporting a new look, the 19-year old from Bromley has a spring in her step as she trains at the IMG Academy in Florida ahead of her return to the match court at the WTA 250 tournament in Washington, DC.
John Clark, hair colourist at the John Frieda salon in London, posted a series of pictures on his Instagram of Raducanu, which clearly show that her hair is a few shades lighter than her previously dark brown colour.
In the caption, Clark shared the details behind the transformation, writing: “I used the @johnfriedasalons #glowlights technique to lift her naturally very dark base to a multi tonal brunette with lighter areas around the face and where the sunshine would naturally make it shimmer. [sic]”
For those unaware, ‘glowlights’ is a new alternative to balayage highlights and is a term coined by John Frieda hair colourist, Nicola Clarke, who first used the technique on Kate Moss when giving her hair a natural makeover for the summer.
Raducanu is having a bit of fun too, during and in between practice sessions, and has kept fans and followers up to date with her activities since her second-round exit at Wimbledon, her home Grand Slam tournament, where suffered a shock loss to Caroline Garcia.
In a post she added to Instagram on Friday, Raducanu shared some snippets to update her fans on how her training was coming along alongside improving her fitness off the court with some weight training, and having fun climbing a gate at the academy, captioning the latter: ‘Yesterday’s menu; special of the day: exit strategy’.
The British No 1 is set to have a busy tournament schedule coming up, starting with the Citi Open in Washington, which begin next Monday, 1 August, then travelling on to Toronto for the National Bank Open, before returning to the United States for the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, both of which are WTA 1000 events.
She will take a week’s break before beginning her US Open title defence from 29 August.
Last week, Raducanu won the 2022 ESPY award for the best female tennis player of the year, alongside the men’s winner, 22-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal, and pipping the likes of Ash Barty, World No 1 Iga Swiatek, and 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez to the post.
Short for ‘Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly’, the award is an accolade currently presented by the American broadcast television network ABC to recognize individual and team athletic achievement and other sports-related performance during the calendar year preceding a given annual ceremony.
The honour highlighted Raducanu as a fan favourite in the sport, as fan votes play a big role in crowning ESPY award winners.
Raducanu produced one of the greatest runs from a player at a Grand Slam tournament at last year’s US Open, entering the event ranked No 150, and as the 31st seed in the qualifying draw.
The Brit won her 3 qualifying matches without dropping a set, but still faced a tall order in the main draw, defeating the likes of Sara Sorribes Tormo and Shelby Rogers on her way to the quarter-finals, keeping up her record of winning in straight sets.
Then 18 years old, Raducanu stunned Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Belinda Bencic, 6-3 6-4, in the quarters before comfortably getting past Maria Sakkari in the semi-finals, 6-1 6-4.
In the final, Raducanu faced an in-form youngster and another surprise finalist, Leylah Fernandez, but the Canadian proved to be no match for the rampant Brit, who won 6-4 6-3 to become the first qualifier, man or woman, to win a Grand Slam singles tournament in the history of tennis.
Raducanu also reached the 4th-round at her Wimbledon main draw debut last year, but she has struggled to replicate that success this year, her first full-time campaign on tour that has been dogged by injuries and coronavirus.
Since her break-through the 19-year-old has split with a number of coaches as she continues to search for that elusive spark that saw her climb to the pinnacle of the sport.
While the ESPY award is well-deserved, it hasn’t sat well with many fans who have called voters for snubbing Barty and Swiatek.
Barty won Wimbledon and the Aus Open since June last year and was a dominant World No.1 before announcing her shock retirement in February, after which Swiatek has taken over the top spot, won Roland Garros and recently surpassed Venus and Serena Williams’ undefeated runs to record a 37 match winning streak.
Still new to the Tour, Raducanu admits she is learning a lot along the way, but she already is a global super-star, walking the red carpet at the No Time To Die premiere wearing a Grecian-inspired one shoulder Dior Resort 2022 dress, accessorised with Stuart Weitzman heels and Tiffany & Co. jewellery, all styled by Nicky Yates.
She has reached a career high of World No 10 and will therefore have a degree of protection in the US Open draw as a top seed, but many are concerned that she has not settled with a perfect coach.
There are a couple up for grabs right now, Wim Fissette, one of the women’s tour’s most sought-after coaches, has just split with Naomi Osaka, while Sascha Bajin, a former hitting partner to Serena Williams before he coached Osaka to 2 of her 4 Grand Slam titles, has parted ways with Karolina Pliskova.
Raducanu’s agents, IMG, should be on high alert to capitalise on such opportunities but the way the 19-year and her family have adopted a scatter-gun approach to finding a suitable team around her does not augur well.
They seem to feel that Raducanu does not need a steady coach and that she can work things out for herself, ignoring what has worked so well for many on tour over the years.
She needs the experience of a good mentor to maintain her focus and Fissette’s 13-year record of success includes working with 9 players, 6 of which became major champions, while 2 more have been runners-up at Grand Slams.
The only woman on the list who never played in a major final is Johanna Konta, Raducanu’s predecessor as British No 1, who Fissette helped achieve her deepest Wimbledon run before she was eliminated in the 2017 semi-finals by Venus Williams.
Whether Fissette follows in the footsteps of Nigel Sears, Andrew Richardson and Torben Beltz, Raducanu’s last 3 coaches with only a few months in the job each, remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, Raducanu, who is still in the very early stages of her flegling career, has opened up her formative years.
“I used to be really shy, as a young girl, and playing tennis and beating the boys, and coming back when I was losing, that just brought me a lot of confidence,” Raducanu said. “Yeah, I can say that I’m definitely more comfortable and outgoing now than I was when I was younger and, I think, tennis has brought me that.”
Dedicated to pursuing her tennis aspirations, she struggled to make friends at school.
“You know how secondary school is,” she explained. “All the kind of friendship groups are formed in, like, year seven, eight, nine, and they’re constantly changing in the early few years.
“So if you’re not there, and you’re not going to some things, or hanging out at lunch, or break, then, you know, you, kind of, get isolated and forgotten about.
“I, sort of, made peace with that later on, I just went to school to study, but I’d say that not having as many friends from school is probably one of the biggest sacrifices I had to make.”
Now on a very clear career path, Raducanu is eying the Citi Open in Washington next Monday, where she will be a high seed and a major attraction on her tournament debut there.
She is more than aware that she faces a tough challenge ahead as she seeks to defend her ranking points in order to remain among the world’s top players.
Winning the US Open last September contributed to a remarkable rise up the WTA Rankings, where Raducanu now finds herself No 10, but the way the system works is on a rolling 12-month period, and she could lose up to 2040 points before she returns to the stage of her only Grand Slam success.
Raducanu currently has 2717 ranking points, earned largely due to her win a year ago, but a poor run now could see her drop as low as 97th in the rankings.
The one thing Raducanu needs now is a return to the form that started this path in the first place.