Emma Raducanu's defeat to the world No 60 at the Citi Open rounded off another disappointing week for the US Open Champion. So how can the Briton get her season back on track before her grand slam title defence in New York?
Problem 1: losing to opponents she should beat
Raducanu’s defeat by world Liudmila Samsonova in Washington DC was just her latest against much lower-ranked players.
Despite a bright start, the 19-year-old squandered a 5-2 lead in the first-set tie-break, losing 8-6 – and then things started to fall apart. Errant groundstrokes and inconsistent serving cost Raducanu the second set 6-1.
Just 22 days out from the US Open, where she will defend her title, Britain’s No 1-ranked female tennis player – and on paper the 10th-best female in the world – has many issues to address.
In New York last September, she beat five top-50 ranked opponents on her way to the title. Since then, though, her form has been patchy. She has chalked up impressive victories against fellow US Open champion Sloane Stephens and French Open doubles champion Caroline Garcia – as well as making the quarter-finals of three WTA Tour events. A 6-4, 6-4 defeat by world No 1 Iga Swiatek showed that Raducanu can go toe-to-toe with the best and it is not her overall ability in question.
Since New York, though, she has played in 16 tournaments and been knocked out by a lower-ranked player 14 times.
Her 2022 record stands at: P23, L13, W10, suffering first-round exits in Sydney, Guadalajara, Miami, Rome and Nottingham.
Problem 2: Recurring injuries
Despite her age, questions are starting to be asked of Raducanu’s endurance. During her US Open run, she beat 10 opponents in 17 days without dropping a set. Of the 19 lower-level pro tournaments she played before 2021, Raducanu retired from four of them.
Since her US Open victory, she has retired from three of her 29 matches. In matches that went to three sets, she has lost six out of 10 outright and retired hurt in another.
She has complained separately of sore ribs, a shortness of breath and a foot injury in the last year.
The Citi Open in Washington DC brought the return of the blisters. A blister on her racket hand hampered her efforts at the Australian Open at the start of the year, while one on her right foot derailed her movement during her straight-sets loss to Marketa Vondrousova in the Billie Jean King Cup in April.
It will be crucial to manage the load on her right hand before New York.
Problem 3: Coaching consistency
On Sept 24, she announced she had split with her US Open mentor Andrew Richardson. Since then she has hired and fired two more coaches and is now working on a “temporary basis” with Dmitry Tursunov – a former player who helped Russia to Davis Cup glory in 2006.
Raducanu is now at the centre of a political maelstrom after it emerged Tursunov appeared to be blocked from entering the UK this summer while coaching world No 2 Anett Kontaveit. Telegraph Sport has been told any Russian or Belarusian coach taking part in Wimbledon and warm-up events held in the UK had to sign a declaration denouncing the invasion of Ukraine under guidance issued by the Government. Tursunov, who appears to have made no public comment on the invasion, split with Konveit at the start of the UK grass-court season.
A spokesman for Raducanu did not respond to requests for comment on the political implications of Tursunov’s appointment or the due diligence carried out prior to it. With her father Ian pulling the strings and with a penchant for mining coaches for information and then discarding them, some have expressed reservations about taking her under their wing.
What happens next?
Raducanu is heading to Canada and the National Bank Open in Toronto followed by the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. Then it is the US Open, starting on Aug 29.
The rankings system runs on a rolling 12-month basis and it means 2,040 points will drop off Raducanu’s total before New York, with 2,000 of those coming from her US Open win.
She has since added fewer than 1,000 points in a year. Currently, Raducanu has only 2,772 points, so losing 2,040 of those would mean she drops to just 732 ranking points. That would leave her at No 85 in the world in the current rankings – equal with fellow Briton Harriet Dart.
“There’s no pressure,” she said in June. “I’m still 19. I’m a slam champion, so no one’s going to take that away from me. If anything, the pressure is on those who haven’t done that.”