'Emma Raducanu and I could help each other out,' says Bianca Andreescu of post-US Open winning blues
As Emma Raducanu consults specialists about her chronic wrist trouble, she might find it reassuring to hear that she is not the only recent US Open champion who has struggled in the aftermath of sudden, life-changing success.
In Miami on Sunday, Raducanu’s fellow Romanian-speaker Bianca Andreescu told reporters that, since scoring her own teenage breakthrough in New York in 2019, it has taken her the best part of four years to “figure out what’s best for me”.
If anyone can advise Emma Raducanu how to climb back into the top echelons of the sport, it is Andreescu. These two women faced off in an entertaining first-round Miami Open match last week. Since then, Andreescu – who came through in three tight sets – has taken out two other notable opponents to reach the round of 16.
In a tournament of this size, the real money and big rankings points are still a couple of wins away. Even so, Andreescu feels like she is finally rediscovering herself after a miserable period in which she struggled with long-term injuries and mental health problems.
“I would love to talk to her [Raducanu] about what happened after the US Open,” said Andreescu. “All the success, all the media stuff. How she dealt with it, how I dealt with it. How we can maybe help each other in that way. I know that we both haven't been having the results we wanted. I don't want to speak on behalf of her, but I'm sure she wants to do better than she is. And yeah, just kind of help each other out in that sense. [To ask] how can we get better, basically.”
While Raducanu has picked up numerous niggles since her US Open triumph, she has at least avoided the sort of career-threatening injury – a torn meniscus in the left knee – that befell Andreescu in October 2019, less than two months after she had defeated Serena Williams in her maiden grand-slam final.
That agonising condition kept Andreescu off the tour for fully 16 months. But it wasn’t the end of her tennis purgatory. Because, not long after returning in the spring of 2021, she took another two-month break out of exasperation with all the Covid protocols and lateral-flow tests – not to mention a deep dissatisfaction with the tour itself.
“That was, honestly, about me wanting to figure out if I really wanted to continue playing tennis,” Andreescu told reporters on Sunday. “I was literally about to drop my rackets and say, ‘Screw this.’ I wasn't happy at all and I wasn't happy basically for the full year of 2021. I thought, if I continue like this, it's just going to get worse.
“So I was like, ‘OK let's take a break. Hopefully that helps.’ And it really did. My heart did grow fonder for the sport, and now I appreciate it in a much different way than I did before. When I did decide to pick up a racket again, I was very, very happy. Obviously, there were ups and downs. But for the most part, I was very level throughout 2022. Even with the losses, I was like, ‘It's fine. I'll go have dinner with my team. I'll go watch a movie or whatever, and not like lock myself in the room for three days like I used to.’ And that's just how it's been for, I guess, a year now.
“To think that it was four years ago [that Andreescu won the US Open] is just absolutely crazy. I feel like I had a lot of time to really settle down and just figure out what's best for me. I knew it wasn't going to come overnight. Now, four years later, I hope that I can get another grand slam as soon as I can.”
As it happened, Andreescu was speaking after she had just beaten Sofia Kenin, another boom-and-bust major champion who has been largely invisible on the tour for the past couple of years. If It takes certain players a long time to rediscover their psychic balance after a big win, then Kenin looks to have some distance yet to travel.
As for Raducanu, she is a hard-headed young woman whose problems have mainly stemmed from her lack of physical development rather than any inner angst. Insiders report that, when the experienced fitness trainer Jez Green met up with her in September, he was surprised at how much work needed to be done. This is not meant as a criticism: Raducanu never got to play as much junior tennis as most of her peers, because of a combination of schoolwork (her parents were keen for her to complete her A-levels) and the pandemic.
An optimistic reading would suggest that, since she pulled out of Seoul in September with a strained glute, Raducanu has not collected any more soft-tissue strains – simply the acute damage of a turned ankle in Auckland in January, alongside these chronic issues with her wrist. She is now back in the UK, searching for solutions.
Although Raducanu gives every impression of being self-sufficient, she could do worse than to listen to Andreescu – a fellow scion of the Romanian expat community who, like her, was born in Toronto.
“When I was coming up, there were many people that were welcoming of me and some that weren't so welcoming,” said Andreescu, who was famously dubbed a “drama queen” at this event in 2019 by the former Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber. “More recently, I have spoken to some younger athletes that have been in the locker-room and some of them have said that they've looked up to me.
“I don’t want to turn my head against these people because I remember being in their spot and I just want them to feel welcomed. If they need to talk to me, I'm very happy to help.”