Emma Raducanu will be under the spotlight when she plays in Nottingham, Birmingham and Wimbledon as a Grand Slam champion, the British No 1 and carrying the hopes of a nation; her ranking will suffer with the WTA revoking points at the All England Club
Thursday 14 July 2022 15:38, UK
Emma Raducanu will return home for the grass-court season with Nottingham first up on the agenda as she steps up her preparations for Wimbledon.
First of all it's rest time for the 19-year-old from Kent who saw her Parisian adventure come to an end at the hands of Aliaksandra Sasnovich, the world No 47 from Belarus, at Roland Garros.
She can take plenty of positives from the clay-court season, and a 6-5 win-loss record is not to be sniffed at given that she only played her first professional match on the surface last month.
"There were some really encouraging signs in terms of my expectations of her on the clay. I saw someone who is still trying to find her feet. Was it a surprise that she lost to Sasnovich? I would say, no. I'd put her real ranking at about 50. I see someone who is trying to add areas to her game, which I understand, but you don't want to go away from your strengths and Raducanu is someone who is not going to beat top players by raw power. She is someone who is going to win matches by her excellent timing, intelligence on the court and her fighting spirit."
Now Raducanu's attention will turn full circle, back to the grass, Wimbledon - where her meteoric rise began - and returning to play in England as the reigning US Open champion.
She confirmed on Monday that she would take a wildcard to play in the Rothesay Open, Nottingham, which begins on June 6.
Sofia Kenin, Camila Giorgi, Alize Cornet and Sorana Cirstea are all on the entry list for the tournament where Raducanu made her WTA Tour debut last year.
The Rothesay Classic, Birmingham, will be Raducanu's next stop a week later. The British No 1 will be one of four major champions taking part.
Former world No 1 Simona Halep, Jelena Ostapenko and Sloane Stephens will join Raducanu - the highest-ranked player in a field - at the Edgbaston Priory Club.
"It's going to be really nice to go home and play on home turf, on the home grass," she said.
"It is going to be a little bit strange in the beginning, because I have played on clay court for so long now, I feel like it's been weeks.
"Like, going onto a grass court I'm probably going to be a bit shocked at first. But I'm really looking forward to playing in front of the fans at home, and just all the support.
"Last year I experienced a little taste of it, but I feel like this year might be a bit more. I'm just really looking forward to the atmosphere that's going to be around."
Depending on how far Raducanu goes in Nottingham and Birmingham, we could well see her in action again at the WTA 500 Rothesay International, Eastbourne.
Defending champion Ostapenko will be joined by Barbora Krejcikova, Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, Petra Kvitova, Maria Sakkari, Paula Badosa, Annet Kontaveit and Ons Jabeur at the star-studded tournament held at Devonshire Park from 18-25 June.
Then it's time for Wimbledon (June 27-July 10) which was the scene where her spectacular rise began with her stunning run to the fourth round last year.
"She's going to have very high expectations of herself on grass and I'd imagine there will be big publicity wherever she goes. Her game is suited more to the grass and the faster hard-courts. There are some encouraging signs but I think the coaching situation is something that really needs to be sorted out. Her ranking at the end of the year is irrelevant. It's about whether she is a better player and is she a stronger player at the end of 2022 than she was at the start of 2021?"
Her Wimbledon points currently make up the second-highest points on her ranking but she won't be able to defend them this summer with the WTA revoking the tournament's ranking points after the All England Club banned Russian and Belarusian players from competing.
"I would have loved the opportunity to defend points that are coming off," she said. "But I am just focused on what I am here to do. I am here to play tennis.
"I don't want to get involved because it is not my place at all. I am sure that there have been many discussions and it wasn't an easy decision at all. I think that I am really again still looking forward to playing at the Championships in front of a home crowd."
Early exits at the Australian and French Opens may have tempered expectations slightly, but men's British No 1 Cameron Norrie says the focus will still be on the Kent youngster.
"She has had a lot of attention after the US Open - I don't think it will be any easier around Wimbledon," said the 26-year-old.
"Hopefully she will go and embrace it. She knows exactly how much attention she will get. It will be even more.
"She needs to keep her head down, keep enjoying the tennis, I'm sure she is looking forward to the grass. I think it is one of her best surfaces as well. It will be a lot of fun."
"She is very mature, very well spoken and hopefully she can let her tennis do the talking at Wimbledon. She played great there last year"
He continued: "At 19, I was doing different stuff than she is now. She is having to deal with a lot more pressurised situations and bigger moments than I was at the same age.
"I was in college enjoying myself and living a more normal life.
"She is very mature, very well-spoken and hopefully she can let her tennis do the talking at Wimbledon. She played great there last year.
"Hopefully she can use the home crowd to her advantage - people will be loving her."
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