Emma Raducanu was like a “caged animal let loose” when she won the US Open after lockdown. But Annabel Croft claims the teenager must now be given time to learn her trade and do her apprenticeship “in reverse”. “We mustn’t panic about her next year,” said the former British No.1.
The US Open champion will play her first match in London since her New York triumph in an exhibition match at the Royal Albert Hall today. She will face Romanian Elena-Gabriela Ruse.
The Bromley teenager shocked the sporting world with her victory at Flushing Meadows – her first-ever Tour-level win.
And Croft revealed: “I did hear from within the team that she had always wanted to go out and do something early in her life. She wanted to win early. And that she felt that lockdown and COVID and everything was preventing her from going out on the tour quickly.
“And so when she came out she was always like a caged animal had been let loose and just went out there and grabbed it.”
But Raducanu, 19, has won only two matches in three events as a Major champion as she learns to deal with the reality of the WTA Tour following her dream win.
Croft added: “She is coping unbelievably well with so much change in her life. She’s doing it in reverse and doing her apprenticeship now. So it’s an extraordinary situation that most players that she’s playing up against will have had three, four, maybe 10 years experience compared to her.
“Now she has to learn about situations in matches, which will take time. The biggest thing is being able to cope with you’re not going to win every match on the court. That’s what most players deal with as they build themselves up to get to where she’s got. She’s doing the whole thing in total reverse. I think we mustn’t panic about her next year. She’s still so young.”
Key to Raducanu returning to winning ways is the recent appointment of Torben Beltz, who took fellow German Angelique Kerber to world No.1. She worked with Nigel Sears at Wimbledon and then parted with Andrew Richardson after her Flushing Meadows win.
“I think he’ll be very good, he’s incredibly experienced,” said Croft. “How long will they stick together? I think there’s a feeling that none of these coaches are going to be given long-term contracts. So we’ll see how long it goes.”
Croft said world No.19 Raducanu had to work on her forehand – and aim to continue climbing up the rankings before the summer.
“There’ll be enormous pressure building towards Wimbledon, and then towards the US Open,” she said. “She’s going to have to protect the points for reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon and then winning the US Open. But I think everything will be okay.
Annabel Croft is an ambassador for Game4Padel, along with former world No.1 Andy Murray. Game4Padel is the UK’s fastest growing padel business in the fastest growing sport in the world.