US Open 2022 – Emma Raducanu’s eventful year, from the champion to the exit of the first round

NEW YORK — When the British tennis player Emma Raducanu arriving in New York last year, she could move around in blissful anonymity. She managed to isolate herself from the growing buzz around her by watching Formula 1, listening to jazz and eating poke bowls in her hotel room during the tournament. Every night she went to Times Square to buy frozen yogurt.

Two weeks later she was U.S. Open champion and a superstar, with her face on a billboard in Times Square.

The year that followed was a year of learning, battling adversity and adjusting to life as one of the most famous sports stars on the planet. So it’s no surprise that this was also one of the mixed performances on the pitch.

His US Open 2022 campaign only lasted one roundas she fell Alize Cornet 6-3, 6-3 in 1 hour 42 minutes Tuesday at Louis Armstrong Stadium. Raducanu looked exasperated at times, again struggling with blistering issues on her racquet hand.

“With the prospect, actually at 19 I haven’t had a bad year,” Raducanu said shortly after the loss to Cornet. “To be in the top hundred, if you told me a year ago, I would take it. But, I think it would be nice to start over, start fresh.”

Earlier this year, Raducanu’s loved ones explained that she would need to step back to collect the experiences she missed on her remarkable journey last year. And that’s how it played out.

She’s had to deal with injuries and an untimely bout of COVID, navigate new surfaces and play with a target on her back as a Grand Slam winner.

Prior to the US Open, Raducanu’s Grand Slam win-loss ratio was 12-17, with three second-round losses this year. But hidden within these high-level stats is a story of valuable development and experience.

“[This year] has been to grow her match count and build her resilience, which is what the sport needs,” Iain Bates, head of women’s tennis for the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), told ESPN.

Bates said the ideal “number of games” for a Raducanu player’s age is 50-60. To date, she has only managed 30 games due to frustrating injuries. And his year was already late before it started. She contracted COVID in December, which interrupted her pre-season schedule.

“It’s not easy to make up for that time later in the year because the tour is going week to week,” Bates said.

Raducanu lost at the Sydney Open in the first round, then went through the first round of the Australian Open to lose against Danka Kovinic in the second. Raducanu’s rhythm was disrupted by a significant blister on her racquet hand – meaning she was reduced to slicing forehands to try to reduce pressure on the wound.

She then injured her hip in February in Guadalajara and had back problems from March to May. She also battled foot blisters that derailed her participation in the Billie Jean King Cup in April.

Despite her lack of clay-court experience, she managed to pass her first round at Roland Garros – her first time in the Roland Garros main draw – as she overcame qualifying. Linda Noskova. . . . But Raducanu lost 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 against Aliaksandra Sasnovitch in the second round.

Lateral tension has disrupted Raducanu’s rise to prominence at Wimbledon, and she’s headed into the tournament with just seven matches (no matches) on grass this year. His participation was questioned. She managed to overcome the threat of the first round of Alison Van Uytvanck – in his very first match on center court – before losing to Caroline Garcia in the second.

This win over Van Uytvanck sticks with Bates as a highlight of Raducanu’s year:

“She went out and played a match on center court, knowing that she was probably a little undercooked, and knowing that the minute she lost at Wimbledon this year, she was going to – what’s the term? – a run. difficult. The fact that she put herself forward and made herself vulnerable and won that game, well, for me, that was absolutely outstanding.”

Amid injuries and disappointments, Raducanu also tested coaches.

She parted ways with Andrew Richardson following his US Open triumph and turned to Torben Beltz in December, but by April the two had parted ways. Bates assumed the interim role for the clay-court season. By the time Wimbledon arrived, Raducanu worked closely with one of his former confidants, Jane O’Donoghue, but operated without an official coach. Prior to the US Open, she had worked with Dmitry Tursunov, who also coached Aryna Sabalenka and Anet Kontaveit.

The hash and change was criticized, but Raducanu responded in June, saying: “Personally, I think I know what I’m doing. I trust what I’m doing and the work I’m doing. I still have 19 years old and I have already won a Grand Slam, so I can take my time and put things in place because I know that my motivation is no less.”

Bates has played a guiding role in Raducanu’s year both as interim manager and in his LTA role.

“If you have people around you that you know, that you trust, that you’re comfortable with and trust,” he said, “then all of those things become stable and the norm. I hope this time with Dmitry is going well.”

Throughout the year, Raducanu has become one of the most sought after players in the sport for enthusiastic sponsors. All of his sponsorship obligations and deals – which include Porsche, Tiffany & Co., Dior, Evian, British Airways, HSBC and Vodafone – are handled by his team at IMG with Max Eisenbud, who has worked with Maria Sharapova and Li Na (whose photo Raducanu has as a lock screen on his phone).

At the start of the year, they circled 18 potential days when she could meet those obligations, but she has yet to meet that quota. She also chose to keep media engagements to a minimum.

Bates got a first-hand glimpse into Raducanu’s life after his Madrid Open Round of 16 exit.

“It was the day Manchester City faced Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the Champions League,” Bates said. “There’s us walking through Madrid, doing the touristy things… and she’s being stopped every two minutes by a Man City fan asking for a picture or something. She’s so famous that she transcends tennis. So she has had to learn to live with it.”

Earlier this month, Raducanu managed to beat Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka in back-to-back matches at the Western and Southern Open – a breakthrough in a year of setbacks.

“I actually feel like I’m heading in the right direction again,” Raducanu said in Ohio. “I think it’s a relief, because I feel like I’m swinging with the same kind of freedom that I probably had, more like last year. And I really enjoyed this week, like I was doing a mistake, it was almost like a positive thing, like, well, you sort of go in. It paid off a lot more than it did.

But here in New York, she said her first practice in front of crowds at Flushing Meadows was frustrating, with blisters once again forcing her to bind her hands:

“It’s just one of those weird days where you kind of feel like nothing… I don’t know. You just feel a little out of it. I can’t really explain myself, to be honest. I’m sure that everyone in this room probably had a day like that. Yeah, that’s what it is.

His first-round draw against Cornet was tricky. Cornet was playing her 63rd consecutive Grand Slam and entered the US Open after a year filled with impressive results, including her run to the Australian Open quarter-final and victory at Wimbledon against the world No. . Each Swiatek.

But as Raducanu was asked about her prospects for the tournament, she dismissed any thoughts that she was under increased pressure as defending champion.

“I think defending a title is just something the press makes up,” she said. “I’m just taking one game at a time. Like, every player is very capable in this draw. I’m just focusing on what I’m doing, my own trajectory. Like I said last year, I’m going just do things my way.”

But it was inescapable: the wall of former winners on the poles along the square in Flushing Meadows all led to this image of her holding the trophy. In fifteen days, there will be someone else who will be added to this line of champions.

His priority for next year is to set up consistent weeks of tennis to build momentum and progression. She enjoyed the six weeks leading up to the US Open and the development she saw in her game. Now comes the next chapter, and she said there was a part of her that – although devastated by the relinquishing his crown at the US Open – will relish the challenges ahead and navigating even cooler territory.

“I mean, obviously [it’s] really disappointing, really sad to leave here,” Raducanu said after the loss. “It’s probably my favorite tournament. But also, I mean, somehow [I’m] happy because it’s a clean slate. I will go down the ranking. Walk my way. Somehow the target will be slightly on my back. Yeah, I just got another chance to get back up there.”

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