Emma Raducanu’s management have confirmed that she will play no more matches on the WTA Tour this season, because of a problem with her wrist.
It is the latest fitness worry in a year that has accumulated as many medical bulletins as victories. As a junior, Raducanu had a reputation for being injury-prone, but no-one imagined that her first full year on tour would be so interrupted.
Raducanu has thus pulled out of this week’s event in Romania – the country of her father’s birth – and next week’s tournament in Guadalajara, which is the last of the regular WTA season.
But it still seems possible that she will turn out for Great Britain in the Billie Jean King Cup finals, which run from November 8 to 13. Her camp say that it is too early to tell.
The wrist problem is unexpected because Raducanu had struck the ball with confidence during her match against Daria Kasatkina on Tuesday in Ostrava. Although she ended up suffering another first-round exit – the eighth time she had lost her opening match this season – she also produced some of her better tennis of 2022 against the fifth seed, and showed no signs of discomfort.
While Raducanu did have her wrist strapped up during the American hard-court campaign, this is one of the few areas of her body that has not previously broken down.
She started 2022 with Covid, and was then afflicted by blisters at the Australian Open before making the first of her four mid-match retirements this year. That one came against Daria Gavrilova in Mexico in February, where she contested what was then the longest match of the WTA season before pulling out with a hip issue.
Raducanu managed to make it through the Billie Jean King Cup qualifying tie in Prague in April, despite losing all her toenails because “my foot … has been sliding around a lot in my shoe”, but then retired again at the Rome Masters in early May, this time with a back problem.
Her grass-court campaign was disrupted by a strain in her abdominal muscles which forced her to retire against Viktorija Golubic at Nottingham, and then left her unable to practice her serve properly in the build-up to Wimbledon.
Then we had more blisters at the US Open, followed by treatment on her left thigh during her loss to world No213 Anna-Lena Friedsam in Slovenia last month, and the fourth and final retirement against Jelena Ostapenko with a left glute issue in Seoul.
All year, Raducanu has been saying that she needs to become more physically robust. She has also claimed to be fitting in extra physical training around her on-court work, but the rewards have yet to be felt.
There must also be a question of whether she is overestimating the seriousness of some of these injuries, which may be niggles rather than anything more. Although the serving issue on the grass lingered for a few weeks, her last couple of reported problems seemed to clear up almost immediately, and her schedule continued uninterrupted.
Raducanu now stands at No67 in the world, having started the year at No18. One suspects that she will take this opportunity to go away on holiday, and that there will be a sense of relief at being away from balls and rackets after so many setbacks.
For the record, Raducanu won 16 and lost 18 matches on the WTA Tour this year. This was a significant comedown from last season (12 and five), but perhaps not an unexpected one when you consider the level of pressure and expectation created by last year’s US Open triumph.
What has been more disappointing is the lack of stability in her backroom set-up. She parted ways with coach Torben Beltz at the end of April, and then experimented with a “new training model” in which she consulted Lawn Tennis Association sources such as doubles guru Louis Cayer.
At Wimbledon, she was accompanied by her former mentor Jane O’Donoghue – who left the LTA in 2019 to take up a job at the Royal Bank of Canada – before working with Russian coach Dimitry Tursunov for the final months of the season.
Time will tell whether Tursunov will continue in the post next year. At this stage, Raducanu is probably less concerned with fine-tuning her game than with staying on court from one week to the next.