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Emma Raducanu believes the run of defeats she has experienced since winning the US Open will make her a stronger player.
The 19-year-old has won only two matches in four tournaments since her stunningly unexpected triumph in New York in September and has lost her last three contests.
The most recent came earlier this week in Sydney when she won just a single game against Elena Rybakina, although she had only just returned to training following three weeks off the court after catching Covid-19.
Having reached the pinnacle of her sport in just her second grand slam tournament, Raducanu now has to begin her education on the WTA Tour in the full glare of the spotlight and with a huge target on her back.
She told the PA news agency: “There are still so many areas of my game that I need to develop. Playing these players who have been doing it for a long time or have more experience on the tour, they’re more used to this.
“I feel like this patch of maybe losing every single week, it’s a great step in my development. I think it’s going to make me a stronger and better player going forward because, if I keep being shown what’s wrong, then it’ll kick in and I’ll learn and become even better.”
Next up for Raducanu is an Australian Open debut against another New York champion in Sloane Stephens – on paper one of the more unlucky draws she could have had.
Perspective regarding the Kent teenager’s career has been in short supply but not from Raducanu herself, who was ranked outside the world’s top 300 prior to her run to the fourth round of Wimbledon last summer.
“One of my goals last year was to try to make it into qualifying here so to be here in the main draw I think is a great achievement,” said Raducanu, who is the 17th seed.
“This year I just want to enjoy every time I go out on court and look back at the end of the year and see an upward trend. I want to look back and be in a better position than I started even if I know there are going to be ups and downs.”
Raducanu was a week and a half into her first pre-season training block with new coach Torben Beltz when she tested positive for Covid on arrival in Abu Dhabi ahead of an exhibition match last month.
She had highlighted last season what an important month it would be, particularly to put in some of the physical work she missed out on while combining tennis with school.
She said: “I feel like I could have put in a lot of good work and I had 10 days of a great pre-season, I was training five or six hours a day, doing great work, and then when I landed in Abu Dhabi to test positive was definitely a bit of a blow because I was very excited to continue with that work and feel very strong for this season.
“But I feel like it’s a little bit of misfortune for all the great luck I’ve had the last year so I’ve just got to believe and keep working and start building from now.”
Beltz is best known for a long association with three-time grand slam champion Angelique Kerber.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 15, 2022
Raducanu has regularly chopped and changed coaches, including deciding not to extend a short-term arrangement with Andrew Richardson despite him guiding her to the title in New York.
The prompted much head-scratching from many pundits but Raducanu has seen positive early signs from her partnership with Beltz.
“We had a very good start,” she said. “We were in London for the first 10 days and we were keen to keep going but I feel like this small bit of turbulence is definitely a good show of how we work together.
“We came out strong. He’s a very happy guy, very positive and I’m very motivated to be on the court.
“For the last week we’ve only had the chance to gradually build up my game and the hours haven’t been crazy because otherwise I’ll get injured if I play too much. It hasn’t been ideal but it’s just been generic building up and getting ready as much as possible for my match.”
— LTA (@the_LTA) January 16, 2022
Raducanu is one of seven British players in the main singles draws.
Cameron Norrie is the only one in action on Monday when he takes on highly-rated young American Sebastian Korda, and the stakes have been raised given he is in the section of the draw vacated by Novak Djokovic.
Andy Murray, Dan Evans, Heather Watson and qualifiers Harriet Dart and Liam Broady all play on Tuesday.