JUDY MURRAY has warned Emma Raducanu of the “steep learning curve” ahead of her as she adjusts to life on the pro tennis tour full-time
Emma Raducanu must adjust to being a “target” in her first full season on the WTA Tour. The 19-year-old made history when she became the first-ever qualifier to win a Grand Slam at the US Open in September. Judy Murray has now warned Raducanu of the “steep leaning curve” ahead after she went from an unknown prospect outside the world’s top 300 to the world’s top 20 within a matter of months.
Raducanu completed the unprecedented earlier this year when she arrived in New York for the US Open qualifying event full of confidence off the back of reaching a new career-high of world No 150.
Then aged just 18, she came through three rounds of qualifying and seven main draw matches without dropping a set, ending her three weeks in Flushing Meadows as a Grand Slam champion which made her the first qualifier in tennis history to win a Grand Slam, and she also became the first woman to lift the title on just her second appearance at Major level.
She shot up into the world’s top 25 and became an overnight household name, attending the prestigious Met Gala and signing deals with Tiffany & Co and Dior in the weeks that followed.
Now sitting at a career-high ranking of No 19, Raducanu is gearing up for her first full year on the professional tennis tour and will be starting her season in Melbourne for the WTA 250 event before the season-opening Grand Slam, the Australian Open – the first time she has directly made it into a Grand Slam main draw, having previously received a wild card for Wimbledon while ranked world No 338, making the second week, before her US Open heroics
Ahead of her first season on the WTA Tour, Judy Murray has warned the young Brit of the challenges and distractions ahead, having guided Andy and Jamie Murray to Grand Slam success in singles and doubles respectively.
“The next 10 months will be completely different to anything she has experienced in her fledgling albeit incredibly exciting career,” she wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
“It will be a steep learning curve on the women’s circuit as she adjusts from the relative anonymity of an A-Level schoolgirl to the dog-eat-dog world of week in, week out tour tennis.
“Everybody on the circuit now knows who she is. Coaches and competitors will be doing their homework and as a Grand Slam champion and top-20 player, she will be a massive scalp. Going from being the hunter – and playing without pressure – to the hunted where you are a target – requires a very different mindset.
The tennis coach and mother to former world No 1 Andy Murray thought that the extra demands would also be a “major distraction” for Raducanu, who became the first female winner of BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 15 years on Sunday.
She continued: “Add to that the expectation and demands of fans, media, sponsors and agents and you can see how her life has changed out of sight since winning the US Open.”
Looking to the experience Andy Murray had – making his Wimbledon debut as a wildcard ranked outside the world’s top 300 much like Raducanu did – Judy admitted that it was a difficult adjustment.
She said: “I know what Andy went through as a young player getting to grips with the life and business of the tour. In his last junior year he finished at 64 in the ATP rankings, having played at Wimbledon that year on a wild card, ranked around 350.
“It’s a steep and tricky learning curve and growing up in public isn’t easy. And it’s not just the player who has to adapt to being in the spotlight, your friends and family do too.
“When you’re the ‘next big thing’ everyone wants a piece of you and the opportunities and requests have to be carefully managed so they don’t become a major distraction and negatively impact on the performances on court.
“We’ve seen the incredible events that Emma’s been invited to, the awards that she’s won, the sponsors and the brands she’s now representing. She is – quite rightly – tennis and marketing gold dust right now.“At the start, that may be very exciting but over time, it’s likely to become very draining. It’s not so easy for a teenager to fit into the corporate world but sponsorship and endorsements come with obligations and personal appearances. And those all require your time and energy.”
However, the Scottish tennis coach was already convinced Raducanu had the tools to deal with the pressure, remembering her unique commitment to the sport from such an early age.
“Emma has a very level head on her. She’s super smart and committed to her sport. I remember the first time I met her when I ran age group camps during my time as Fed Cup captain. She must have been about nine at the time and what stood out for me was her ability to concentrate throughout the duration of the camp,” she said.
“At that age, you don’t expect children to be switched on for long periods. She also asked a lot of questions. It’s always a good sign when kids are curious because it shows they are hungry to learn and improve. I remember she smiled a lot too.
“If she applies that same focus, inquisitivity and engaging personality to her first year on tour, she will do just fine. Her tennis is already in such a good place, but it’s important that we don’t heap expectation and pressure on her. She’s a teenager. Let’s give her time and space to grow her game and get to grips with what the pro tennis circuit will demand of her.”