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Emma Raducanu: Former US Open champion has found her feet on clay ahead of French Open

Emma Raducanu has produced some of her best form since winning the 2021 US Open on the red dirt so can she be a serious contender at the French Open?; you can watch the combined Madrid Open and Internazionali BNL d'Italia exclusively live on Sky Sports Tennis

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Emma Raducanu says she feels confident for her return to the Madrid Open after a positive performance at the Billie Jean King Cup and Stuttgart Open

How has Emma Raducanu found her footing on clay and can the Briton become a serious contender for the French Open at Roland Garros?

Raducanu, 21, is making her way back following a torrid 2023 after undergoing multiple wrist and ankle surgeries which sidelined her for over eight months.

But she looked excellent in winning her two ties in the Billie Jean King Cup victory over France and then followed that up by swatting home favourite Angelique Kerber and Linda Noskova aside in reaching the quarter-finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart last week.

She has now defeated five Grand Slam champions and an Olympic gold medallist in her career and has climbed more than 80 spots in the rankings - from No 303 to No 221 - with Madrid and Rome to come ahead of the French Open which starts on May 20.

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Highlights of the Stuttgart quarter-final between Emma Raducanu and Iga Swiatek

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World No 1 Swiatek was full of praise for Raducanu, saying she has the game to compete at the highest level

Despite all her troubles since winning the US Open in 2021, Raducanu has never doubted the good times would return, and who would have thought that clay would be the surface that she has excelled on most since her return from those injury woes.

Expectations have risen again on Raducanu's young shoulders ahead of the French Open, which has historically been a daunting place for British players over the years.

"I am not too surprised because I have been working really hard on the training court and I knew it was just a matter of time," she said before her exit in Stuttgart to world No 1 Iga Swiatek in two tightly-contested sets.

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"This isn't my best, I still have a long way to go. I am just really happy the rewards are starting to come on the match court.

"You know how it is when you are training day in, day out you feel like the results aren't going your way. It is never that far away, that is something I am learning.

"Going through everything I have been through gives you a different appreciation, there is nothing like playing in front of fans and playing good tennis."

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Highlights of Raducanu against Linda Noskova

How coach Cavaday has played a key role in Raducanu's revival

Emma Raducanu of Great Britain talks to coach Nick Cavaday before playing against Aryna Sabalenka in the third round on Day 9 of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 11, 2024 in Indian Wells, California (Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images)
Image: Coach Nick Cavaday (right) has played an important role in Raducanu's recent revival

Including the Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers, her winning run marked the first time Raducanu has won four consecutive matches since her US Open victory in 2021, and confidence appears to be sky high in camp with her coach Nick Cavaday playing a major role in her revival.

Cavaday is someone Raducanu feels she can rely on and bring stability to her set-up, having reunited with her childhood coach since the beginning of 2024.

"I feel very comfortable working with him. I have known him since I was a young age, so he's someone who I feel like I can trust, and that's a big thing for me," she said, following her opening win in Stuttgart.

"Just having people who I know before I would say I got famous or I got any of the big whatever [was] coming my way, it was just good to have someone who's known me before that.

"You know that their intentions are good, and they didn't just come after the win and when everything is easy to just come and join.

"It's a nice feeling. He knows pretty well how I operate. I would say I haven't changed at all since I was eight or nine. But everything around me has changed, but it's mentally I feel like I'm the exact same person. We've obviously been doing great work this year and it's starting to show and whenever it comes together big things will happen."

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Highlights of Raducanu's impressive victory against former world No 1 Angelique Kerber

Why Raducanu's game is made for clay

Raducanu's playing style has served her well on the red stuff, with the Brit happy to go toe-to-toe with the very best on the surface.

She assumes a high position for a short swing, while her rounded take-back means she generates power but lacks the desired racket head acceleration at times.

However, a consistent serve and acute angled returns can fluster opponents. Perhaps her biggest issue could come down to her lack of competitive matches and physical fitness on the demanding clay courts.

"I think it's a combination of things like low expectations. We have two or three clay courts in Britain which we can use and practise on it for two weeks," she said in Stuttgart.

"It's a combination of that and also since a young age I've always loved moving on this surface. I love sliding and I'm pretty good at sliding on both legs, which is a strength, and I think the fitter I get the more clean my technique gets before I'm able to stay in the longer points and generate from further back.

"I feel like before I was having to hover the baseline and play a hard-court game on clay as well which works sometimes but doesn't always work.

"I'm developing more versatility in the way I play. I can adjust, I can adapt and that's a big strength."

If Raducanu can produce another fairytale - this time in Paris - she would become Britain's first player to win the French Open in the Open Era since Sue Barker in 1976.

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Raducanu gives us a serving masterclass as well as tips and tricks on different types of serves! credit: LTA via X

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