British tennis fans famously only acknowledge the sport exists for a couple of weeks in the middle of summer in SW19. But they ought to think about changing the habit of a lifetime over the next couple of weeks, as Emma Raducanu prepares to defend her US Open title at Flushing Meadows.
It’s been a dizzying year for Bromley’s best. Her journey from star-struck ingenue when she went to New York a year ago to her arrival back there this week as the champion and the face of a thousand magazine covers must have felt like a rocket ride to the Milky Way. But now she has to prove herself all over again. Since winning the US Open a year ago at just 18, she has failed to win another singles title and has won just 12 matches out of 28 on the WTA tour.
But things are looking up for her again. Last week she played Serena Willams (now 40) in an eagerly awaited match at the Cincinnati Open. Serena, who admittedly barely moves these days though she can still give the ball an almighty whack, was dismantled by Raducanu, who a few hours later went on to do the same to Victoria Azarenka, another multiple Grand Slam champion.
In those two matches Raducanu lost a total of six games over the four sets. They were two massive demolition jobs, and Raducanu was playing with a force that I haven’t seen since the US Open last year. Ominously for her opponents, she reckons she’s now playing better than she was then. She has come in for some heavy flak recently, not unconnected to her array of lucrative sponsorship deals, as well as her frequent changes of coach (she’s now with Russia’s Dmitry Tursunov on a ‘trial’ basis).