|Dates: May 22-June 5 Venue of events: Roland Garros, Paris|
|Coverage: Live text and radio commentary of selected matches on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, the BBC Sport website and app|
Emma Raducanu was sitting in the A levels during last year’s French Open; she is now ranked 12th in the world as the US Open champion as she prepares to make her debut at Roland Garros.
As new york fairy tale, Raducanu has found it difficult to get wins and form, as have many 19-year-olds in their first full year on tour.
But unlike most in that role, Raducanu has frequently rotated coaches and been able to attract lucrative contracts with eight global brands.
Understandably, she has struggled with the huge public profile she assumed so quickly and has become more withdrawn from others on tour. Building a long-term relationship with a coach may seem advantageous, but traditionally that is not Raducanu’s way.
“I think they want someone who can challenge their tennis IQ, and there are very few people who can do that,” says a person with knowledge of the family.
A carousel of coaches
Nigel Sears left the scene after Raducanu’s run to the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, and Andrew Richardson secured a contract until the end of the US Open, which was ultimately not extended despite that unforgettable triumph in September.
Torben Beltz was appointed in November, but gone at the end of april having overseen just 10 WTA matches.
The LTA’s head of women’s tennis, Iain Bates, traveled with Raducanu to Madrid and Rome this month, but much of the technical work over the last six weeks has been carried out by the LTA’s chief performance adviser, Louis Cayer.
Best known for his work with doubles players such as Jamie Murray, Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski, Cayer is credited with recent improvements in Raducanu’s technique. Both Emma and her father Ian are said to enjoy Cayer’s forensic approach and video analysis.
But perhaps the biggest date of the year will turn out to be Raducanu’s new batting partner. Raymond Sarmiento is practicing with her at the National Tennis Center in London this week and will be part of the team at Roland Garros, and for the foreseeable future if all goes according to plan.
The 29-year-old American has been in the top 300 in the world and was Raducanu’s batting partner in Indian Wells last October.
Raducanu’s approach to coaching
“You can’t keep going from left to right,” said a source I spoke to recently. An oft-repeated fear is that coaches will no longer be tempted by the inevitably short-term nature of any role with Raducanu.
But another doesn’t see it that way at all.
“They deplete the resources and the knowledge of the trainers pretty quickly, and then they obviously want the next one,” they said.
“When people do things differently, everyone looks at it and thinks it’s weird, because no one has done it this way before.
“But I’m not that skeptical because I’ve seen too many people do some pretty wacky things and they turn out to be gold mines.”
Another observer who knows the family sums up Raducanu’s approach to training well.
“If a coach isn’t working, it’s just going to be done,” they said.
“So I wasn’t surprised with Torben [Beltz] going, seeing how he was playing. She really didn’t feel like she had made any kind of improvement.
“Obviously he’s brutal and there will be a trail of trainers at the end of his career, I’m sure.
“But there’s also another side. In fact, I’ve always found them to be very respectful of people who maybe they shouldn’t be respecting. Their attitude is that they might have that little piece of gold, and Ian will investigate them for an hour until they find that.
“I think they want someone who can challenge their tennis IQ and there are very few people who can do that. I think it’s quite a difficult thing for them to understand and digest.”
“I think they check in with the coaches and then get pretty disappointed because they don’t know as much as they thought they did.”
The dad who divides opinions
Ian Raducanu is said to have a “constant thirst for information” by one tennis expert, but to be “obsessed with peripheral details” by another.
When asked how best to describe him, “demanding, analytical, opinionated and personable” were some of the adjectives chosen in response.
He has been very hard on his daughter in the past. Some refer to emotional blackmail and speak of Emma’s tears and Ian’s periods of silence.
British player Naomi Broady, whose father Simon has always been the dominant figure in her career (and who didn’t speak to his son Liam for three years), sees strong parental involvement as a big plus.
“Emma and I wanted to play doubles together on grass last summer,” he said.
“His wrist was a bit sore and his father said flatly that he would not play doubles at Nottingham.
“It was a resounding ‘no,’ and I actually texted Emma that night and told her I know it’s going to be really hard at times, but to always remember that every decision you make is going to be for your benefit. He’s going to be the one.” the only person you won’t have to question their motives.
Raducanu is also very inquisitive and analytical, and can have strong opinions. The expectation is that he will develop more independence from his father over the next few years, but that he will continue to be an influential figure in his career.
“I would say that Emma is calling the shots, but he is, and always will be, a big influence. It’s not like she’s going to make a decision without discussing it with him, but I know she’s made decisions that she hasn’t necessarily had.” agreed,” is how one person sums it up.
the road ahead
A Grand Slam title at 18 and a world ranking of 12 at 19 opens many doors, but the associated expectation and profile is a difficult cross to bear.
Signing agreements with eight top-tier companies takes overdraft fees out of the equation, but brings with it an expectation of performance and a significant number of business days.
The US Open champion struck me as particularly concerned in the early months of this year. That is based on personal experience and the testimony of others who say that she did not always return messages and seemed less receptive to those who made efforts to make her feel welcome.
None of which is remotely surprising. Especially if you remember that in February a 35-year-old man received a five-year restraining order for making unsolicited trips to his family home.
Raducanu’s outlook appears to have improved in recent weeks, no doubt helped by five wins on clay, as he made his professional debut on the surface. Based solely on this year’s results, she is just outside the top 50, making her the fourth most successful teenager in the world.
The back injury that forced her to withdraw from the Italian Open remains a frustration, as does her hip problem and frequent blisters from earlier in the season. Raducanu will likely learn to highlight injuries less as she gets older, but they’re not uncommon at this stage of a career, especially since December’s crucial pre-season training block was scuppered after she tested positive for covid.
“His tennis ability is way ahead of his physical development,” was the way a source put it.
And the feeling within the sport is that when her body catches up, Emma Raducanu might slow down a bit.