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- British professional tennis player
After the most explosive breakout season in recent sporting memory, Emma Raducanu has already been thinking about how to tackle 2022.
The British No 1 only burst onto the scene at Wimbledon in July, after sitting her A Levels, and her subsequent US Open triumph marked one of the most unlikely victories in tennis history. But due to prioritising finishing her schooling, unlike most 18-year-olds on the circuit, Raducanu remains a rookie of sorts, with next year set to be her first full season on the WTA professional circuit.
Her run to the quarter-finals at the Transylvania Open this week ended with a thrashing at the hands of fellow teenager Marta Kostyuk on Friday, when Raducanu attributed her lacklustre performance to tiredness. In the most one-sided loss of her short career so far, she was completely overpowered by Kostyuk, and rattled through 41 unforced errors over two sets. The world No 23 said improving her fitness to cope with the physical demands of the tour was her priority moving forward, and she has scheduled a month-long off-season after an appearance at the Linz Open, which begins on November 6.
“I’m going to do a full off-season for sure,” Raducanu said. “After Linz, I will probably have a week off, just to reset and get mentally and physically fresh for the tough preseason. It’s going to be my first one. And from what I’ve heard it’s a very difficult four weeks physically. So I just want to prepare for that and the next year.”
Despite her quarter-final exit, Raducanu's stay in Cluj-Napoca marked a stepping stone for her, recording the first two wins of her WTA career outside of the majors, and she was welcomed with open arms by the country her father is originally from. But she put on hold plans to reunite with her 88-year-old grandmother Niculina in Bucharest, whom she has not seen in two years due to the pandemic, over fears about rising Covid cases in Romania.
Instead she was due to arrive back at Stansted on Saturday afternoon, to get a week's recovery before Austria's Linz Open. "I’m fully focused on trying to end [the year] strong and get matches under my belt," she said. "I need matches at the moment. I feel like I had a really good run ending in New York and then after not playing for a while you lose that."
Linz will be Raducanu's seventh tour-level event this season, including the majors, but 2022 will see her grapple with the relentless professional tennis calendar for the first time - beginning with the Australian swing in the new year. She hopes to have a new full-time coach to help guide this exciting but intense new chapter, especially after a week in Cluj-Napoca coaching herself, with only her physiotherapist Will Herbert, father and agent Chris Helliar for support.
The search for the right person for the job remains ongoing. After the US Open, she parted ways with Andrew Richardson, a coach from her childhood, whom she enlisted on a short-term contract after Wimbledon. Raducanu has openly said she is looking for someone with more "tour-level experience" and is hoping to have a permanent replacement to work with during the off-season too. Earlier this week she confirmed she had trialled a number of coaches, including Johanna Konta's former coach Esteban Carril of Spain.
On Friday she gave no update as to when she will make that final decision though, and could well travel to Austria late next week still without a coach. After, she has two exhibition appearances in the diary, first at the Royal Albert Hall's Champions Tennis in late November and in Abu Dhabi on December 16, from where she is expected to head straight out to Melbourne.
The prospect of entering the Australian Open in mid-January as the most-recent major champion, has not yet crossed her mind, she said, but she expects that finding her way around Melbourne Park will be the more pressing issue when she eventually lands there. "I’m really excited to go to Melbourne. I played the juniors there and it’s an incredible city but obviously the pros is different. It’s going to be a new experience, a new locker room. I'm going to have to find my way around again and ask for directions but I’m excited to go."