Emma Raducanu’s 2024 was nothing if not consistent. She has played three events, winning her first round each time, but never advancing beyond the second. So what do we think of her progress so far? As Raducanu waits for a wildcard into next week’s WTA event in Doha, here are five takeaways from her start to the season.
Raducanu seems ready to commit to the tour
After two frustrating years of injury disruption and coaching instability, Raducanu has emerged and played with relatively little drama. There is no hangover from last year’s three operations, nor any sense of boredom from the peculiar lifestyle of a touring professional. Her interviews have been chatty and thoughtful, and she seems more at peace with herself.
This marks a significant change from her mood last summer, when she told an interviewer: “What I’ve realized over the past two years, the tour and everything that comes with it, is not a very nice, familiar and safe space.” She also said she was “under so much pressure to perform… Sometimes I think to myself that I wish I had never won the US Open.”
Raducanu’s newfound attitude represents an unexpected advantage over the injuries that halted her career last May. In an interview with CNN last week, she explained that her nine-month layoff after surgery “gave me time to reset and think about why I do tennis, why I play, what I like about it, and that it really gave me after that It’s time to give it a miss and get hungry again. And I think when I have that hunger… yeah, it’s quite dangerous.”
She has the weapons to compete, but not yet to dominate
Raducanu’s play has held up well in recent weeks and there have been moments – especially in the second set against Marie Bouzkova – that were reminiscent of her extraordinary US Open series. Raducanu roamed the court aggressively during that period, skipping inside the baseline whenever she got the chance and using her photogenic forehand – which became a problem during her period of wrist problems – to glorious effect.
But the way Jabeur then dumped Raducanu out of the Abu Dhabi Open, via a 6-4, 6-1 scoreline that matched Bouzkova’s reverse result, was a reminder that she still needs plenty of matches and technical work if she wants to land. more major titles. Raducanu’s serve became increasingly toothless against Jabeur, while her steady forehand balls were pressed back with interest.
This didn’t happen at the US Open, partly because Raducanu never faced anyone with Jabeur’s arsenal, and partly because she was such an unknown quantity that opponents didn’t know what to expect. Another problem is that she has no net skills to speak of – a limiting factor in an era where champions can win points anywhere. While her groundstrokes and moves look like top-30 material, she will need to upgrade several areas of her game if she wants to challenge for the top ten.
Cavaday is developing into a reliable coaching solution
Nick Cavaday, who has guided Raducanu through her last two events, seems to have a natural connection with her. He may not be a big name, having spent the last few years working at the National Academy in Loughborough, but he has the crucial advantage of having known her since before she became famous.
The same goes for Jane O’Donoghue, Raducanu’s former Lawn Tennis Association mentor, who occupied her player’s box in Auckland in the first week of the new season. Raducanu’s reliance on childhood allies makes sense in the context of another quote from last summer. “There are a lot of sharks there,” she said. “I think people in the sector see me as a piggy bank. I have learned: keep your circle as small as possible.”
In Australia, Raducanu Cavaday mentioned someone who makes her feel nostalgic, saying, “Sometimes you can say, ‘Oh, I remember that session like on indoor track six in the winter at the BTA.’ [Bromley Tennis Academy].’” This sense of comfort will certainly contribute to her more settled mood, as described above. Under the circumstances, he seems like the right man to help her rebuild her ranking, which will be around 260 on Monday.
But what about a fitness trainer?
This remains the big unchecked box in Raducanu’s career. She worked with Kent-based Gareth Shelbourne in her teens and signed Andy Murray’s former fitness trainer Jez Green to much fanfare in late 2022. But it later turned out that the Green Deal was a part-time deal, such as it was. still traveling with his existing client Dominic Thiem. They couldn’t work together much before her wrists flared up.
Since last summer, Raducanu has relied on Lawn Tennis Association staff – particularly physio Milena Mirkovic – to oversee her rehabilitation and recovery. But while she has remained thankfully free of specific injuries this season, she has also faded in several matches, especially in the deciding sets against Elina Svitolina and Wang Yafan. It was noticeable against Jabeur that she did not run a few balls. Even if she had given this up as a lost cause, and perhaps was wary of overloading her body after previous setbacks, this gave off a somewhat half-hearted vibe.
While Raducanu insists she wants to keep her team as small as possible, she should look to the example of Katie Boulter – the British No.1 whose ranking has just fallen below 50 for the first time. After spending the off-season with Matt Little, another Murray ally, Boulter looks stronger in the legs. She enters and exits the corners more smoothly and has already achieved a top ten victory this year – something Raducanu has yet to achieve – over Jessica Pegula.
Wildcards shouldn’t be a problem
The great thing about Raducanu in 2024 is that all her matches were fun to watch. She’s a nice stylist (except for those shonky volleys) who exudes charisma both on and off the court.
Add to that her 2.4 million Instagram followers and Raducanu remains a player who will want to host any tournament – as evidenced by her likely wildcards for upcoming events in Doha, Indian Wells and Miami. Given such juicy opportunities and her refreshed mental state, her rise up the rankings should continue.