US Open champion Emma Raducanu ready to return to action at Indian Wells
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Less than a month after her stunning victory at the US Open, Raducanu, currently ranked world number 22, will return to action this week in the BNP Paribas Open. The teenager was handed a wildcard by the tournament’s organisers. One to watch, her first match is set to take place at 2am BST on Saturday morning, and will be her first as US Open champion.
She comes up against world number 100 Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the 16,000-capacity centre court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California.
Her entry in the tournament will allow her to compete for the 1,000 ranking points up for grabs, also possibly giving her an outside chance at qualifying for the season-ending WTA Finals in Guadalajara.
After winning the US Open, Raducanu momentarily became the world’s most talked-about athlete.
While most of the comments were positive, some were deemed less than helpful.
Figures like Piers Morgan had previously piled on the pressure after she dropped out of Wimbledon this summer after suffering from breathing difficulties, suggesting the teen was not ready to play on the world’s stage.
However, Chris Evans, a Labour MP for Islwyn in South Wales and Vice Chair of the tennis All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), cautioned Raducanu’s detractors, urging them to remind themselves that she is still just 18.
He told Express.co.uk: “It’s all part of the old British adage of building them up to knock them down.
“There are always going to be negative voices, there are always going to be people who are jealous — but I think she’s just got to turn it off, she’s got to find a way to turn that background music off.
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“Some people get to the point where they criticise so much it becomes white noise, it doesn’t mean anything anymore.
“A lot of commentators out there — especially this period that we’re going through — seem angry with the world, they seem to be angry about everything and can’t be happy for anyone.
“I do hope that we can get to a point where we can be happy for a winner.
“But to me, at the moment, I think she just needs to be able to enjoy it.
“This is an 18-year-old, a fantastic talent, we should be happy for her and just enjoy watching her play.”
When Raducanu’s Wimbledon run came to an end, a brush with the media and criticism from high-profile names ensued.
John McEnroe, the tennis legend, was in the commentary box for the match and suggested Raducanu had found playing in the last 16 of the tournament “a little too much”.
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He said: “It appears it just got a little bit too much, as is understandable, particularly with what we’ve been talking about over the last six weeks, with Naomi Osaka not even here.
“How much can players handle?
“It makes you look at the guys that have been around and the girls for so long – how well they can handle it. … We have to appreciate the players that are able to do it so well, and hopefully she’ll learn from this experience.”
Many, including Raducanu’s opponent, the Australian Ajla Tomljanovic, were enraged by the comments.
Tomljanovic hit out in a post-match interview, and said: “I can’t imagine being in her shoes, at 18, playing a fourth round in your home country.
“It’s something I can’t even imagine.
“For him to say that, it’s definitely harsh.
“I have experienced something similar but not to that extent. I know that it’s a real thing.
“I’ve spoken to athletes that have gone through that. It’s not easy.”
However, Morgan, the former host of Good Morning Britain, agreed with McEnroe, claiming his words were fair.
He tweeted: “McEnroe told the truth.
“Ms Raducanu’s a talented player but couldn’t handle the pressure & quit when she was losing badly.
“Not ‘brave’, just a shame. If I were her, I’d tell my fans to stop abusing McEnroe, & seek his advice on how to toughen up & become a champion like he was.”
When Raducanu went on to win the US Open, Morgan claimed that she had taken his advice.
Replying to a tweet by journalist Leanne Prescott that read: “A bad day for Piers Morgan means a huge win for mankind. Maybe people should try a little more to encourage young talents instead of dragging them down”, he wrote: “A bad day? I’ve been totally vindicated. She took my advice and won.”
In a separate tweet, he said: “Imagine if Emma Raducanu had taken Twitter’s advice & carried on ‘bravely’ and ‘heroically’ quitting and losing… thank God she’s made of tougher stuff & realised that winners don’t quit & have to learn how to handle the pressure.
“That’s why she’s Champion today. Congrats Emma.”
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