Emma Raducanu has already blown conventional wisdom out of the water once in her career, but she is running risk of confusion in her approach to coaching, says legendary former player Chris Evert.
Raducanu is currently working with the LTA’s head of women’s tennis Iain Bates, her fourth coach in just nine months after dispensing with Torben Beltz in April, but he is not a permanent appointment.
The 19-year-old has said she is something of a “loner” on tour and is “finding a lot about myself” but 18-time grand slam champion Evert, who was coached by her father Jimmy and then Dennis Ralston, says there are risks attached to her current approach.
“It may work for her. And it may be this genius new progressive idea, but it’s the first time I’ve ever heard of a player going that route,” says Evert, who will watch Raducanu’s French Open campaign as an expert commentator for Discovery.
“I’m sort of a creature of habit and I need simplicity. And I need one person to be on my team, to work with me on my game and on strategy. It would be confusing for me to have different people in my ear all the time.
“Maybe that’s just going to be the next big thing that’s going to happen in the game, but I can obviously see having a coach and then bringing someone over to help with your serve for instance. That’s realistic, but to have no main coach and no main person that you can go to and look up to and just have a lot of people in your ear, I think, to me, it would be confusing.”
Raducanu faces 17-year-old Czech player Linda Noskova in her first-round match at Roland Garros on Monday, something of a teenage prodigy herself having won the Junior French Open last year.
The British No 1 had never played a professional match on clay before she headed to Prague for a Billie Jean King Cup tie against the Czech Republic last month.
She has won five of her nine matches on the surface since then but is still considered a big outsider at the French Open.
Raducanu vs. Noskova
Date: Monday 23 May
Time: 2.15pm, follows Dodin vs Petkovic and then Norrie vs Guinard
TV: Eurosport 1 (Sky channel 410, BT 435, Virgin 521)
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“I feel like she’s gotten some criticism about her results, but she looks like she’s playing pretty well to me after watching her, especially on the clay,” Evert adds.
“I think her first priority is tennis. She said that, but also I think you can tell her by her attitude, her body language, the fact that she’s practicing so much, and I really do think she’s hungry.
“And I think it’s just the sophomore [second-year] blues really right now.
“Nobody knew about her when she won. Nobody knew how to play her. And now those coaches [of her opponents]they’re doing their homework on her.
“They’re all watching her and they’re watching all the patterns and very much like they’re doing probably with the Iga [Swiatek] right now, and they’re fine-tuning how their players compete.”
Raducanu herself believes she has also made significant inroads on clay, traditionally the weakest surface of any player from the UK due to the lack of courts.
“I have definitely come a long way and probably progressed faster than expected of myself in the last few weeks and I really am enjoying the clay,” Raducanu said ahead of her first-round match.
“To be honest, I think I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would. Clay at the beginning kind of was like written off, ‘Oh, it’s a clay court, just have a go’. But now I really believe that I can be good and faster than I thought it would be.”
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