Eurosport commentator John McEnroe has called Emma Raducanu’s lack of a conventional coach “unbelievable” after she departed the French Open in the second round, well-beaten by world No 47 Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Raducanu did not bring a coach to Roland Garros, having said a month ago that she is moving to a “new training model” that relies on Lawn Tennis Association support and occasional meetings with consultants.
But McEnroe questioned the wisdom of this approach on Wednesday. “Honestly, if I won the US Open having gone through qualifying, I wouldn’t change my coach at least for the next year, so I do not understand that move,” he said, in relation to Raducanu’s split with Andrew Richardson in September last year.
“Obviously her parents are involved and they know more than I know,” McEnroe added. “But this idea of a revolving door of coaches – I just do not think that good for any player, much less so for a player at this stage of her career. We have to wait and see and hopefully she finds someone she can stick with for a while. “
After Richardson’s departure, Raducanu went without a coach for the rest of the season, before finally appointing Torben Beltz – a German who had previously worked with Angelique Kerber – in November. But that never had the look of a lasting partnership and it ended last month.
Her father Ian is known for his conviction that tennis coaches tend to have certain areas of expertise. He believes that once you have mined their particular strengths, there is little point in keeping them around as traveling companions.
But McEnroe clearly feels that Raducanu is being left exposed without an experienced mentor whom she can lean on from one week to the next. Her own comments on this subject have veered from bullishly proclaiming her ability to function as a loner to asking for someone to hold her hand, sometimes within the space of 24 hours.
“I think movement is an issue for her,” said McEnroe, after Raducanu’s 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 reverse at the hands of Sasnovich. “Obviously experience, she is still very young. She has sort of put herself in a difficult position because a lot is expected of her and with the people around her, we are not sure if she is comfortable with them just yet. Hopefully in the next year or two she will find that.
“We have got to keep a little perspective here. At Wimbledon last year she was unable to finish a match because of stress and it got to be too much for her. Then she came out and did something that no one has ever done – man or woman – in 150 years of tennis, coming from the qualifying and winning. All of a sudden, there is this pressure on her, this expectation, that has gotten a little bit overwhelming as well. She has changed coaches, three, four or five times which is unbelievable for someone who has just come off winning a major. ”
Raducanu’s loss to Sasnovich marked the end of her first full year on the professional tour. In her own post-match press conference, she was keen to point out just how far she had come in that time.
The best marker, she said, was where she was playing this time last May: the Connaught Club in Chingford, on the outskirts of Epping Forest.
“We were saying with my team this morning, it’s pretty much a year anniversary since my comeback to competitive tennis,” Raducanu said. “I was playing a Brit Tour: [event] in Connaught. I think I have come a long way since then. “
Then, Raducanu was ranked 364th, playing in a field of eight players and lost in the semi-finals to unranked Katherine Barnes. On Wednesday, she fought hard on the 10,000-seat Court Suzanne-Lenglen, in a second-round loss at Roland Garros to world No 47 Sasnovich. Quite the contrast.
With the kind of standards US Open champion Raducanu sets herself, the defeat will sting. But it also closes the chapter on her rookie year, where she has been getting to grips with new territory and experiences at every event. She is looking forward to shaking off the newbie label.
“I think I do really welcome going around the second time,” Raducanu said. “I think this year was always going to be challenging for me to adjust, find my feet. There’s always something new. Like I’m always asking where everything is. I have no idea where everything is. It’s going to be a lot more familiar this time around. “
Despite admitting to tiring during Wednesday’s match, with fitness a recurring factor over the past few months, she said a big “positive” to take from Paris is that she leaves feeling good physically after various injury troubles. She will now revert to the home grass court events in the lead up to Wimbledon, and is confirmed to play at the Rothesay Classic Birmingham beginning on June 11 – her first competitive UK match since Wimbledon last summer when she made her breakthrough.
With her early exit in Paris, she could well opt to play sooner. Nottingham is an option, but she did not make any formal commitments on Wednesday, and instead looked back on her year-long progress. “In the last 12 months I have definitely grown a lot,” she said. “On and off the court I feel like I have probably improved how much I fight. I think that’s one of my biggest strengths and even more so on the tour this year, and it’s definitely opened my eyes to just how good everyone is and how much depth there is in the game.
“I think that it has been a pretty positive year just because I have learnt so much, and I think that the amount of learning that I have kind of done outweighs any sort of result, to be honest.”