Emma Raducanu: Expert on 'possible factors' of Wimbledon exit
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Former world No 1 Tracy Austin believes Emma Raducanu suffered from having too much pressure and expectation on her from the British crowd at Wimbledon and thinks Andy Murray’s exit from the men’s draw did not help matters.
The 18-year-old beat Vitalia Diatchenko, Marketa Vondrousova and Sorana Cirstea without dropping a set to soar into the fourth round of Wimbledon on her Grand Slam debut.
But the wildcard had to withdraw while trailing 6-4, 3-0 against Australian Alja Tomljanovic on Court One on Monday due to difficulty breathing during her match.
Raducanu went off court during a medical timeout and was unable to return. She has yet to make an official statement on her retirement although her dad is claimed to have said post-match of the reason for her withdrawal: “I think it’s the level.”
And two-time US Open champion Austin, analysing Wimbledon for BBC Two, suggested that Raducanu suffered from the weight of expectation upon her, with the teenager having become the centre of attention over the past week thanks to her surprise run to round four.
Raducanu was thrust into the spotlight even more as the last remaining Brit at the tournament once compatriot Murray lost to Denis Shapovalov in the third round of the men’s event on Friday night.
“I think the moment just became too large,” suspected Austin, though it is currently unknown whether there was a more serious medical reason for Raducanu’s retirement. “When you go back a week she was really in obscurity. Nobody sides intel Brits knew who Emma Raducanu was.
“I didn’t know who she was or how to say her name last week! All of a sudden she wins three matches as a wildcard and she’s played so well against Cirstea.
“First time ever on Court One and she even said she played above her level and said she’d never hit some of those shots before and surprised herself.
“All of a sudden she has a day off and she’s all over the papers, all the expectations, and what’s in front of her is the fairytale is still going on and she has a winnable match in the fourth round.
“It’s almost too good to be true for both of them. You have Tomljanovic who’s 75th in the world and Raducanu who is 338th in the world. This may never happen again where you have such a large opportunity to get to the quarter-finals.
“Both were tight at the beginning and you just squeeze too tight and become overwhelmed because the opportunity is so big. It became real, reality kind of checked in at that point.
“It was a long day, they didn’t start until about 8pm, that’s a long time to think about the match.”
Austin sympathised with Raducanu that she did not have tournaments prior to Wimbledon to get used to playing in front of big crowds, this just her second event in the main draw of a WTA Tour tournament.
She added: “There wasn’t really any build-up. Nigel Sears talked about Nottingham when she lost to Harriet Dart, he said there were about five people in the stands and she froze there. Now she’s coming to Wimbledon.
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“I was very young when I started playing exhibitions. I think the US Open, 1977, I was 14 years old and that was my big breakthrough. Every match I won, a big deal was made out of it, but there were things that came before that.
“I’d gotten used to it and gotten some callouses and some blisters from getting so much media. She came like a lightning rod out of nowhere.
“It’s very difficult to adapt to so much attention and maybe, maybe, she had self doubt about whether her game matches up. ‘Everyone’s talking about how good I am and how athletic I am and my future.’
“She really has not played enough matches. It was almost just too much. I remember how big it was when I first came here, I played Chrissie [Chris Evert], my biggest worry was the proper courtesy. I was asking Chrissie beforehand which foot goes behind the other.
“I didn’t expect to win and I didn’t have a nation like Britain behind me with all the expectations. One Andy [Murray] went out, everybody’s eyes were on Emma.
“For an 18-year-old with not a lot of foundation and experience, just done her A Levels in April, it was I think a bit too much to ask.
“It was really tough to see her kind of hyperventilating out there and then not to be able to come back and take that wave of appreciation. The crowd had really done such a good job, they’d done their part to help her get there.”
Former British No 1 Anne Keothavong was sat next to Austin in the BBC studio and said earlier in the day of her countrywoman: “She’s OK. She’s going to be fine. Last night I saw her leave the Club and obviously it was just a difficult situation for her to be in and for everyone to witness. But she’ll be just fine.”
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