Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Why Too Much Pressure Could Harm Emma Raducanu’s Career

Posted on 20 August 2021 by Ben Thompson

Emma Raducanu burst onto the scene this year at Wimbledon, earning the adulation of the British public, the majority of whom most likely not having heard of her before the tournament began.

Today, Raducanu is seen as the future of British tennis, an expectation that has hindered other talented British players who have attempted to emulate the success of Andy Murray. High expectations inevitably lead to pressure, and it is critical that the British press and public do not expect too much, too soon from Raducanu.

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The 18-year-old comes from a diverse background; her father was born from Romania and his mother in China. Raducanu herself was born in Canada, where she lived for two years before her family settled in London. She chose to represent the country that she and her family reside in, a choice that will lead to much celebration over the years for British sports fans.

Dream Week at Wimbledon

Raducanu received a wild-card entry into Wimbledon, as she was ranked outside the top-300 of the WTA Rankings at the time. She eased her way into the Round of 16, beating three experienced players, including current World No. 42 and Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova, along the way without losing a set.

The hype and attention was at its maximum heading into her Round of 16 match against Australian Alja Tomljanović, which was to be played on Court 1, a court which holds more than 12,000 at full capacity.

Raducanu seemed to embrace the atmosphere, with her pumped-up celebrations egging on the crowd and leading to rapturous roars. The Brit started well but left the court and ultimately retired when trailing 4-6, 0-3.

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She posted a message on social media after the match that she had “started to breathe heavily and felt dizzy” at the end of the first set and “I think the whole experience caught up with me”. In an interview on BBC TV Raducanu also said: “I don’t know what caused it. I think it was a combination of everything that has gone on behind the scenes and the accumulation of the excitement and the buzz.”

It was an unfortunate end to what was an incredible week for Raducanu in which she introduced herself as an athlete to follow and watch succeed for years to come. There will be plenty of opportunities for her to advance even further at Wimbledon and other Grand Slams due to her phenomenal shot-making abilities and passion on the court. At Wimbledon in 2021, despite her retirement, was a young British tennis player introducing themselves in a way that has not been seen since Andy Murray.

Following up a breakthrough tournament is a tough ask for a young athlete, but Raducanu has been able to do so in recent weeks. She reached the quarter-finals of her second event post-Wimbledon and defeated the former World No. 37 Alison Van Uytvanck in her third. She was also given a wildcard entry into the Silicon Valley Classic in San José, California, a sign that her popularity is extending outside of Great Britain already.

High Expectations

British tennis will soon have a void that it needs to fill. Andy Murray is 34-years-old and coming towards the end of his incredible career, in which he won three Grand Slam titles and reached World No. 1 in the ATP rankings. He is currently making a comeback from yet another injury, this time a tear in his quad, that forced him to withdraw from the singles event at the Tokyo Olympics.

It is likely that soon, however, he will retire, meaning someone needs to take his place as the face of British tennis. Raducanu has the talent and the personality to do this successfully, but there is also an immense pressure in being the face of British tennis that she will need to adapt to quickly.

The newfound fame that has followed Raducanu since her Wimbledon run has been astounding. Her social media following has increased massively, with her Instagram account now being followed by over 400,000 people. She does not seem fazed by this, and coinciding with the confidence that was shown on court she may have seen this attention as inevitable.

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Other British players have struggled with expectations of being the next top player from the country. These expectations are often lofty and unrealistic, as Murray has left these up-and-coming Brits with the tough task of trying to emulate his success.

Jo Konta has been the British player who has achieved the most other than Murray in recent years, reaching the semi-finals of three of the four Grand Slams and achieving a career high ranking of No. 4 in 2017. Despite her age and lack of experience on tour, the expectation of many British tennis fans is that Raducanu can do even more in her career.

While high hopes are to be expected from a hugely talented young athlete, patience is required when analysing Raducanu’s career and the potential success she can achieve. The Brit has already proved that she has all the necessary tools in her arsenal to win trophies and be a high-ranked player, but the British media and sports fans must give her the time to do so.