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‘I think perseverance and resilience is one of my biggest strengths,’ Emma Raducanu boldly claimed at the start of this year. ‘Although I’ve had great successes there have also been so many different setbacks.’

In that short film, entitled ‘Fighting Back‘, Raducanu spoke philosophically about the external scrutiny on her career and her life, her hunger to return to the top of the sport and the amount of work she has had to put in in a bid to put her injury problems behind her.

She smiled, often, content that her post-surgery troubles – she had had minor surgery on three limbs last year – were now behind her. For 9:11 magazine, Raducanu’s Redemption made for a compelling tale to tell.

And yet here we are, and here she is, again, just three months on. Injured. Sidelined. Familiar criticisms, often unfair, are again hurled in her direction.

This time it’s the Miami Open she has preemptively withdrawn from due to a lower back injury, albeit not a serious one her representatives were quick to point out.

An alarming injury portfolio, crocked again – so why won’t Emma Raducanu hire a full-time fitness guru?

Emma Raducanu’s injury problems have returned as she withdraws from the Miami Open

Last year the former US Open champion had surgery on both wrists, as well as on her left ankle

Last year the former US Open champion had surgery on both wrists, as well as on her left ankle

Injuries have been part of Raducanu's game as she adapts to the rigours of the WTA Tour. Pictured: Raducanu attempting to not vomit as she battles a sickness bug at Australian Open

Injuries have been part of Raducanu’s game as she adapts to the rigours of the WTA Tour. Pictured: Raducanu attempting to not vomit as she battles a sickness bug at Australian Open 

Nonetheless, it’s an injury to add to the collection, one few her age can come close to competing with. At 288th in the world, more often than not these days it feels like she loses momentum climbing the mountain by the time she sets foot out of base camp.

There is a pang of sadness in seeing Raducanu navigate the perils of professional sport in the eye of the public. That’s what winning a Slam as a qualifier will do to you. Everything changes. Expectations elevate. Mega-money brand deals follow and later become an easy stick to beat you with.

To the total of around £12million a year, Raducanu is a brand ambassador for Porsche, while also working with Nike, British Airways, Evian, Dior, Tiffany’s, HSBC and Vodafone.

She has long fired back at criticism of her commercial activities – most recently when appearing at a glitzy dinner in Dubai alongside Naomi Campbell for the launch of a new hotel – by claiming she practises for ’12 hours a day’ and can do as she pleases in her free time.

‘The only difference,’ she told The Times, ‘is my dinners go public.’

When you play and you win, whatever you do off court is by-the-by. Few care. It’s when you don’t win, and you don’t play, that criticism intensifies.

Now, a realistic estimate before Raducanu returns to the court is probably three weeks, should she go ahead and play in the Billie Jean King Cup for Great Britain. Given she is through just 10 matches to date in 2024 – winning five – another disrupted, injury-interrupted campaign looks to lie in wait.

Raducanu talks of her hunger, her appetite to play tennis, the love she has for tennis and the competition aspect. Sources across the WTA Tour have spoken of her infectious smile but frequent injury can be draining. Could it be that the fear of injury is playing on her mind?

Raducanu battled problems in both of her wrists for more than a year before she had surgery

Raducanu battled problems in both of her wrists for more than a year before she had surgery

Blistering has been an issue

She works hard but her body remains fragile

Raducanu has battled cramping – which impacted Andy Murray early in his career – while blistering (left) has also been an issue as the physicality of the elite level takes its toll

She kept a smile on her face during the difficult period and is now looking on the rise again

She kept a smile on her face during the difficult period and is now looking on the rise again 

‘It’s important to understand the difference between a fear of re-injury, which is a specific fear that the injured body part, in this case her back, has something functionally ‘wrong’ with it, or re-injury anxiety, which represents thoughts or worries about the consequences that might arise from her ongoing injury, for example performing worse, dropping down the ranking, negative press attention,’ Tom Williams, Senior Lecturer in Sport Psychology, at St Mary’s University, tells Mail Sport.

EMMA RADUCANU’S HISTORY OF COACHES

Nigel Sears

Andrew Richardson

Torben Beltz

Jane O’Donoghue

Iain Bates

Louis Cayer

Dmitry Tursunov

Sebastian Sachs

Nick Cavaday

‘Sometimes it can be both of these in combination, but it’s important to have that conversation.’

Injuries are not a new thing for Raducanu. 

She was beset by injuries on the junior circuit, some serious but more often niggles that kept her out of competition, and that carried on onto the pro tour. Of the 19 lower-level pro tournaments she played before 2021, Raducanu retired from four of them.

Back problems, a glute issue, wrist problems, ankle problems, abdominal stress, cramping, blistering, her injury portfolio at 21 is extensive and alarming, depending on who you ask. 

Others Mail Sport spoke to were more nonchalant that injuries are ‘par for the course’ at the elite level, particularly when cramping, for example, was a known problem for Andy Murray when he was breaking through the pro ranks.

But a look to world No 1 Iga Swiatek, who can go through as many as 80 games in a year, shows the gap Raducanu, if she is to win another major, is battling to make up. It’s huge.

In 2022 she managed 36 matches – a personal best. Even within those 36 she retired injured in four of them.

Last year she managed just 10 matches before season-ending surgery on both wrists and one of her ankles put paid to tennis.

‘When she’s fit, she’s an incredible player,’ fellow British star Jack Draper said of Raducanu last year.

‘I think she’s been struggling with injuries for a long time. I think people forget that before the US Open she was still in school. She didn’t have a lot of training. Obviously, she had that huge run and achieved what people dream of achieving in their whole career. 

‘And then I think to expect so much of her after that is a bit of a mistake because she hasn’t maybe got a lot of that physical foundation and the experience of playing on the tour and all those things that all those other players have.

‘I think if she can get herself to being a good fitness level where she’s built up that resilience over months and years and keeps working on her game, she’ll be right up there with the best in the world and she’ll be competing for grand slams again. It’s just one of those where the fitness side of things, it’s not a quick fix, it takes a lot of time.’

Raducanu, who boasts sponsorship deals with the likes of Porsche, Dior and Tiffany, continues to changes coaches frequently - and it has brought mixed success for her

Raducanu, who boasts sponsorship deals with the likes of Porsche, Dior and Tiffany, continues to changes coaches frequently – and it has brought mixed success for her

The British tennis star previously worked with Nigel Sears (left) before her breakthrough at Wimbledon in 2021

The British tennis star previously worked with Nigel Sears (left) before her breakthrough at Wimbledon in 2021

Raducanu also previously worked with German tennis coach Torben Beltz (left)

Raducanu also previously worked with German tennis coach Torben Beltz (left)

Raducanu split from her German coach Sebastian Sachs last May while she was sidelined

Raducanu split from her German coach Sebastian Sachs last May while she was sidelined

Nick Cavaday is now working with the 21-year-old, who he worked with when she was a junior at the LTA Academy, and there is hope that this can be a player-coach pairing that lasts

Nick Cavaday is now working with the 21-year-old, who he worked with when she was a junior at the LTA Academy, and there is hope that this can be a player-coach pairing that lasts

Draper is right in that on pure talent Raducanu can stand alongside the very best of them – you don’t fluke a Grand Slam title no matter how much some want to pretend otherwise. 

At aged 13 she became the youngest ITF champion by winning the Nike Junior International in Wavertree. Again, it’s not a fluke if a 13-year-old wins an Under-18 tournament. It is her body, not her talent, that is in question.

It makes her decision not to hire a full-time fitness trainer to this point all the more peculiar, particularly when her entire career has been blighted by physical ills.

She spent time working with Jez Green, popular among the game’s biggest stars and a key piece of the Andy Murray puzzle once upon a time, but their part-time agreement lapsed without renewal. 

It was previously termed that ‘creative differences’ saw any replacement for Green abandoned. Back in 2021 she did some work with Matt Little, another fitness coach who has counted Murray among his clients. That too didn’t last.

‘A big thing to consider is athletic age, not just chronological age,’ specialist sports physiotherapist Ben Lombard tells Mail Sport.

‘If you take Wayne Rooney as an example, he retired from football in his early 30s because he was playing for England at 16. He had a professional career from such a young age that he had had a full career by the time he was 31/32. It’s similar with Emma Raducanu, these child prodigies that play tennis multiple times a week from age 3 or 4 that it doesn’t really matter whether she is 21 or 25, she still played 17/18/19/20 years of tennis in that time which is an enormous amount of time.

‘Look, there is no magic bullet for injury prevention, the only thing anyone can do is understand injuries are complex and multi-faceted.

‘But it is a wise idea to do reverse training. If you’re always doing a lot of forehand work it’s important to prevent the imbalance on that side by working on the other.

‘You can draw a lot of comparisons to golfers. Take Tiger Woods’ injury to his lower back during that famous swing where he tore through his L5 disc… look at Rory [McIlroy] now, he’s a lot bigger than he was when he was younger because of working the opposite way. It’s about building up tissue capacity in key areas over time.’

Raducanu (left) is pictured with Naomi Campbell (right) at the opening of a glitzy hotel in Dubai two days before she crashed out of the Qatar Open, which drew widespread criticism

Raducanu (left) is pictured with Naomi Campbell (right) at the opening of a glitzy hotel in Dubai two days before she crashed out of the Qatar Open, which drew widespread criticism

Raducanu poses for a picture with High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens (left) at the opening of the One&Only One Za'abeel hotel in early February, but she has defended how she spends her free time

Raducanu poses for a picture with High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens (left) at the opening of the One&Only One Za’abeel hotel in early February, but she has defended how she spends her free time

Evian is among big-money deals, with Raducanu earning close to £12m from endorsements

Evian is among big-money deals, with Raducanu earning close to £12m from endorsements

Raducanu appeared in a video for one of her sponsors HSBC, reading children's stories

Raducanu appeared in a video for one of her sponsors HSBC, reading children’s stories

Raducanu’s inner circle is small – albeit changing frequently – and her exact training regime at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton is kept under wraps.

There are those, like former US Open champion Andy Roddick, who feel matches are the best way for her to increase her resilience, while there are others who see her best path forward being to pick and choose her tournaments and leave bigger gaps, taking breaks like Naomi Osaka and others have looked to normalise among female players.

‘I want to work on becoming a better tennis player,’ Raducanu told the BBC earlier this month. ‘I think for me I’m not too concerned about this year’s tournaments.

‘A lot of people out there would say that I need matches, but I think that for me I want to work on my game and development.

‘Taking time to do that is very necessary and not just following the crowd, or playing a lot of matches, or dropping down [to Challenger level] to do that. I want to work on developing skills.’

What many in tennis are keen to see her do is settle on a performance team and a structure that can maximise her obvious potential.

Raducanu has the natural ability to win multiple Slam titles

The Brit has an infectious smile but she struggles to find rhythm with such a disruptive injury record

Many want to see the Brit’s infectious smile (right) on a more routine basis but it is injury that continues to prevent her from finding the necessary rhythm on court to climb the rankings

INJURIES SUFFERED BY EMMA RADUCANU SINCE TURNING PRO

Wimbledon 2021

Raducanu made an initial impact on the tour at Wimbledon 2021, winning over the nation’s hearts as she reached the fourth round on her Grand Slam debut.

However, the then-teenager suffered from breathing difficulties in her clash with Ajla Tomljanovic, forcing her to withdraw at 4-6 0-3.

She didn’t dwell on that outcome for too long, though, achieving an incredible Grand Slam triumph at the next time of asking, winning the US Open.

Abierto Zapopan 2022

The first of four retirements in 2022 came at February’s Abierto Zapopan, abandoning her first-round affair with Daria Saville.

Raducanu won the opening set 7-5 before coming up short 6-7 in the second as a cramp in her leg and fatigue started to kick in.

After three-and-a-half hours of play with the score at 3-4 in the deciding set, Raducanu forfeited and was also absent from the Monterrey Open as a precaution.

Italian Open 2022

Three months later, Raducanu couldn’t put up much of a fight in her Italian Open first-round clash with Bianca Andreescu.

She reportedly complained about a back injury in the build-up to the match, which seemed to take its toll as she fell 2-6 1-2 down before withdrawing.

Raducanu regained her fitness for the French Open later in May but crashed out to unseeded Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the second round.

Nottingham Open 2022

The Brit couldn’t replicate her 2021 success at Wimbledon the following year, losing to Caroline Garcia in the second round.

And that may have partly been down to her disrupted preparation after retiring from her first match at the Nottingham Open.

Raducanu made a name for herself in Nottingham ahead of that memorable run in SW19 a year prior, but an injury handed Viktorija Golubic a win in the first set.

Korea Open 2022

After months of injury woes and below-par tournament performances, Raducanu looked back to her best in the Korea Open in September 2022.

She battled her way into the semi-finals, beating third seed Magna Linette along the way, but familiar issues caught up with her again.

After taking the first set 6-4 against Jelena Ostapenko, Raducanu lost the second 3-6 and was 0-3 down in the third before retiring through discomfort in her left glute.

Transylvania Open 2022

The Transylvania Open holds a special place in Raducanu’s heart, given her father is Romanian, making it to the quarter-finals in 2021.

However, she had to withdraw from the 2022 edition before it had even begun due to a wrist injury.

Her decision to miss the event ended her season, also not participating in the Billie Jean King Cup.

ASB Classic 2023

Raducanu’s latest injury came in January, marking the start of her 2023 campaign in the worst way possible.

After thrashing Viktoria Kuzmova 6-0 in the first set of their ASB Classic match, the Slovak won the second 5-7, and it soon went from bad to worse.

Raducanu rolled her ankle, leaving her in tears as she left the court after being forced to retire from another tournament.

MAY-DECEMBER 2023

Missed French Open, Wimbledon and US Open after having surgery on both wrists and one ankle

Australian Open 2024

Was ‘throwing up’ during her second-round defeat to Wang Yafan due to a stomach bug

Miami Open 2024

Emma Raducanu has withdrawn from the Miami Open on the eve of the joint ATP and WTA 1000 tournament due to a lower back injury. According to a member of Raducanu’s camp, the injury is not serious but she has been feeling pain in her back and did not want to risk worsening it.

Her mother Renee and father Ian, who is heavily involved in her career and the path it takes, are now both part of the furniture travelling on the road with her, while she has also changed agent recently, going from Max Eisenbud to Thomas Houchin at IMG.

She is now onto her ninth coach since winning the US Open in 2021, teaming up once more with Nick Cavaday, who worked with her at juniors, and new fitness personnel have come on board, albeit the exact arrangement of who this is and what remit they hold in the short-medium-long term remains unclear there.

Should she settle on Cavaday for a while things could turn around. Should her and her father spin the coaching staff roulette wheel again, this never-ending fit-injured-fit-injured cycle may well rear its head once more.



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