As soon as a player posts their name on the honors board, the sporting world thinks it has a new star. That’s how it works, eh?
Nuances do not come into this unequal equation. Winning a Grand Slam immediately brings an expectation of certain standards which will be amplified externally in a social world that can only understand life by wins or losses. In capitals.
Thank goodness for Emma Raducanu for breaking the mold. She might not be thanking everyone for their response to her travails, but a healthy dose of realism has now set in.
Winning 10 games on the trot at Flushing Meadows without dropping a set was the worst possible way to raise the wow! bar. The trophy has just gone and done a tour of Britain, squeezing the pips from the juice of September 2021. It’s a bit of an old news narrative now. The world wants to see what Emma did next.
Raducanu’s air space is full of noise and traffic is best shut down. The naysayers are out there and so are the optimists. The difficult second album syndrome can strangulate rather than inspire. After winning in Paris a few weeks ago, Iga Swiatek said something that made a whole lot of sense: “OK, the first one happened, but the second one is confirmation that you actually know what you’re doing.”
The Pole hit the nail on the head. No further questions of the 21-year-old will be asked for the time being until the mini-crisis of losing a match. She has the validation needed for her own headspace. She is in the elite forever, a woman who has proved she can win multiple times and multiple titles on different surfaces
Raducanu is currently in the twilight zone, hunting to “connect the Emma that I want to be and the Emma that I am right now. When I do that, I feel like I’m going to be pretty dangerous”. She is trying not to sweat the small stuff.
The 19-year-old recently spoke of trying to “switch off more”, saying she’s ‘letting go of being perfect at all times and being afraid to look bad in front of myself’. This is teenage angst, not tennis talk. We don’t need to know her justifications. Her transparency is both refreshing and engaging though.
The burden on British youth sports stars has always been extreme – although in tennis there haven’t been many teenagers who have got bums on seats let alone on the edge of them. Judy Murray chipped in with the old “my son had growing pains too” shtick which is quite possible.
Even Andy himself told the media to lay off a little: “We will make mistakes and say the wrong thing at times but just maybe don’t judge us too harshly when we do that and I’m sure that would help Emma a little bit.”
Everyone has an angle on the British youngster. There cannot be a straight or flat storyline. She’s young. She smiles. She wins. She loses. She retires. Well, more of the latter at the moment which is a little bit of a problem. If she does make it for Wimbledon, then the column inches will be full of it.
Steve Davis once said that the perfect art of snooker “is to play as if it means nothing when it means everything.” That’s not quite Kipling’s impostor quote but that innocence may assist Raducanu to manage the weight of her internal struggle.