As the French Open begins in Paris, there’s one question on everyone’s lips: can Britain’s golden girl repeat the incredible success she achieved at last year’s US Open?
By Chris Miller, Writer
It’s no wonder they call it the Fairytale of New York. When Britain’s Emma Raducanu won the US Open last September, she became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open era. How massive an achievement is that?
Well, there had been 416 men’s and women’s Grand Slam Open singles tournaments before her win. FOUR HUNDRED AND SIXTEEN. None won by a qualifier. And Raducanu triumphed without losing a set, which has never been done by a man or woman at the US Open. And she was just 18! Un. Real.
So how is the fairytale looking now? It’s fair to say it has not been plain sailing for Raducanu – but when you’re as talented as she clearly is, it’s surely just a matter of time before everything clicks and she gets back to her winning ways. Here’s a quick look back at her whirlwind career ahead of the French Open, which starts on Sunday and will be shown live on Eurosport.
What’s gone right for Raducanu?
You mean apart from that mind-boggling, unprecedented Grand Slam win?! Well, she was publicly congratulated by the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cambridge, the Prime Minister, the First Minister of Scotland and a host of sports legends including Lewis Hamilton, Gary Lineker and Billie Jean King, which must have been… nice. And weird. The public statement wasn’t the only accolade she got from the Queen, either – it was followed by an MBE in the New Year Honours list.
Raducanu won numerous end-of-year awards, including Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year, WTA Newcomer of the Year and, of course, the big one: the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
It wasn’t just awards, either – being the new young face of sporting success is a lucrative business. Raducanu is now an ambassador for various luxury brands (jewellery, fashion, cars, et very much cetera) and starred in a high-profile Christmas TV advert for a high-street sport retailer. Good for her! She also did her popularity no harm at all by charmingly swearing in Italian during a TV interview.
What’s gone wrong?
You may have noticed that in that list of successes, there was not a lot about, y’know, tennis. Raducanu hasn’t been past the quarter-finals of a tournament since her US win, although there have been mitigating factors. She put her second-round loss at January’s Australian Open down to painful blisters on her hand, while in February a leg injury put her out of the Abierto Zapopan tournament. In April a back problem forced her to retire in the first round of the Italian Open, and she also grossed out the world by announcing that her toenails had fallen off.
There’s been some instability off the court too. Raducanu ended her partnership with coach Andrew Richardson after the US Open and for a while was supported by former British No 1 Jeremy Bates. In November she appointed Torben Beltz as her permanent coach, but it was a short-lived arrangement – they split in April. The LTA is currently assisting her with training, but she’s lacking the support, consistency and vision the right coach can bring.
How are things looking right now?
There are certainly positive signs! When fit, Raducanu has achieved some outstanding results, including a win against former world No 1 Sloane Stephens in Melbourne and victory over Caroline Garcia at Indian Wells. At the Stuttgart Open last month she reached the last eight and lost only to world No 1 and eventual champ Iga Świątek, while there was a hard-fought win over Czech Republic’s Tereza Martincová in the Billie Jean King Cup.
It’s important to remember that Raducanu is only 19 and is still figuring out what she’s capable of physically. Ideally she’d do this away from the glare of the world’s media, but that’s pretty unlikely at this point. However, she has plenty of years left in her career and, despite that US Open fairytale, no one should be demanding instant success.
What about her French Open prospects?
Raducanu and her fans are hoping that the dodgy back doesn’t keep her out of the tournament. That impressive Stuttgart performance and the BJK Cup win came on clay, a surface that should suit Raducanu with her big, booming baseline hits – so Roland-Garros, the world’s most famous clay-court arena, could be a perfect venue for Raducanu. Even if this isn’t her year, we’re confident she will shine in Paris before too long.
Who else is tipped to do well at Roland-Garros?
Iga Świątek has arguably been the best performer on the tour this year, with four tournament wins, including the Stuttgart and Miami Opens. Former winners Garbiñe Muguruza, Simona Halep and reigning champ Barbora Krejčíková are in with a shout too in a field left wide open by the retirement of Ash Barty.
In the men’s, either Rafa Nadal or Novak Djokovic has won every French Open singles title since 2016, with Nadal having won 13 in all – but might we see a changing of the guard this year? Carlos Alcaraz, a 19-year-old Spaniard, exploded on to the scene this year, winning the Barcelona and Madrid Opens (both on clay) and defeating Nadal along the way. Could Spain have their own Raducanu?
When is the French Open tennis on TV?
Coverage of the French Open from Roland-Garros starts at 9.30am on Sunday 22 May on Eurosport 1 HD (CH 521) and Eurosport 2 HD (CH 522).
TV channels: Channels, content and features available depend on your chosen package. Channel line-ups and content are subject to change at any time and to regional variations.
HD: HD TV set, V HD Box, TiVo box, Virgin TV V6 box or Virgin TV 360 box connected with HDMI cables required for HD channels. Number of inclusive HD channels depends on package.