|Dates: May 22 to June 5 Local: Roland Garros, Paris|
|Roof: Live text and radio commentary of selected matches on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, on the BBC Sport website and app|
Emma Raducanu was at Level A during last year’s French Open – now she is ranked 12th in the world as a US Open champion as she prepares to make her Roland Garros debut.
Since the new york fairy tale, Raducanu found victories and fitness – as did many 19-year-olds in their first full year on tour.
But unlike most in that position, Raducanu changed coaches frequently and managed to attract lucrative contracts with eight global brands.
She understandably struggled with the huge public profile she took on so quickly and became more withdrawn from others on tour. Building a long-term relationship with a trainer may therefore seem advantageous, but traditionally that’s 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 of Wimbledon last year, and Andrew Richardson was given a contract until the end of the US Open, which ended up not being extended despite his unforgettable triumph in September.
Torben Beltz was appointed in November, but gone at the end of april having overseen just 10 WTA matches.
LTA women’s tennis boss Iain Bates traveled with Raducanu to Madrid and Rome this month, but much of the technical work over the past six weeks has been handled by LTA senior performance consultant Louis Cayer.
Best known for his work with doubles players such as Jamie Murray, Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski, Cayer has been credited with recent improvements in Raducanu’s technique. Emma and her father Ian are said to like Cayer’s approach to forensics and video analysis.
But perhaps the most important appointment of the year will be Raducanu’s new batting partner. Raymond Sarmiento is training with her at the National Tennis Center in London this week and will be part of the team at Roland Garros – and in the near future if all goes to plan.
The 29-year-old American was in the world’s top 300 and was Raducanu’s batting partner at Indian Wells last October.
The Raducanu approach to coaching
“You can’t keep going left and right,” said a source I spoke to recently. A very recurring 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.
“They drain the resources and knowledge of coaches very quickly and obviously want the next one,” they said.
“When people do things differently, the whole world takes one look at it and thinks this is bizarre because no one has done it before.
“But I’m not that skeptical because I’ve seen a lot of people do really crazy things, and they end up becoming gold mines.”
The Raducanu approach to coaching is well summarized by another observer who knows the family.
“If a coach is not working, it will be done,” they said.
“So I wasn’t surprised that Torben [Beltz] going, seeing how she was playing. It really didn’t look like she made any sort of improvement.
“Obviously it’s brutal and there will be a trail of coaches until the end of his career I’m sure.
“But there’s also another side. In fact, I’ve always found them remarkably respectful to people they might not respect. Their attitude is that they can have that little piece of gold, and Ian will probe them for an hour until they find it.
“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 a very difficult thing for them to understand and digest.
“I think they hire coaches and they’re quite disappointed because they don’t know as much as they thought they did.”
The father who divides opinions
Ian Raducanu is said to have a “constant thirst for information” for one tennis player, but is “obsessed with peripheral details” for another.
When asked how to best describe him, “demanding, analytical, opinionated and kind” were some of the adjectives chosen in response.
He was 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 hasn’t spoken to her son Liam for three years), considers strong parental involvement a big plus.
“Emma and I wanted to play doubles together on the grass last summer,” she said.
“Her wrist was a little sore and her father told her point-blank that she shouldn’t play doubles in Nottingham.
“It was a firm ‘no’ and I actually texted Emma that night and said I know it’s going to be very difficult at times, but always remember that every decision he makes will be for your benefit. only person you won’t have to question your motives for.”
Raducanu is also very curious and analytical, and can have strong opinions. The expectation is that she will develop greater independence from her father over the next two years, but that he will remain an influential figure in her career.
“I would say Emma is in charge, but he is, and always will be, a huge influence. It’s not like she’s going to make a decision without discussing it with him, but I know she made decisions that he didn’t necessarily agree with.” the way a person sums it up.
the road ahead
A Grand Slam title of 18th and a world ranking of 12th to 19th opens many doors – but the associated expectation and profile is a heavy cross to bear.
Signing agreements with eight blue chip companies eliminates overdraft fees but brings with it an expectation of performance and a significant number of business days.
The US Open champion seemed especially worried in the first few months of this year. This is based on personal experience and the testimony of others who say she didn’t always return messages and seemed less receptive to those who went out of their way to make her feel welcome.
None of this 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 your family’s home.
Raducanu’s outlook appears to have improved in recent weeks – no doubt helped by five victories on clay as she made her pro debut on the surface. Based on this year’s results alone, she is just outside the top 50 – which makes her the fourth most successful teenager in the world.
The back injury that forced her to retire from the Italian Open remains a frustration, as does her hip problem and frequent blisters at the start of the season. Raducanu will likely learn to highlight injuries less as she ages, but they’re not uncommon at this stage of her career – especially since December’s crucial pre-season training block was ruined after she tested positive for Covid.
“His tennis skill is way ahead of his physical development,” was the way one source put it.
And the feeling within the sport is that when her body recovers, Emma Raducanu can take a break.