Coachless Emma Raducanu is seeded third for the Transylvania Open
Emma Raducanu admits she is having to learn to “coach myself” as she continues her search for a long-term successor to Andrew Richardson.
More than a month on from the exit of Richardson, who guided her to the US Open title in September, Raducanu has opted to travel to the Transylvania Open in Cluj-Napoca without an interim coach in place, instead having a skeleton team of physiotherapist Will Herbert, agent Chris Helliar and her father Ian, who is from Romania.
Raducanu, 18, who is the third seed in Cluj, is expected to play her first-round tie against world No 123 Polona Hercog of Slovenia on Tuesday. She could well meet two-time major winner Simona Halep in the semi-final if she progresses that far, but will have to do so with minimal outside input.
At Indian Wells in California earlier this month, it was a similar story.She had the support of Jeremy Bates, who was attending with British player Katie Boulter, but he was available only for her first match, which she lost to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in straight sets. It was a humbling return to the court after her fairy tale in New York, but the experience has not pushed her to rush the decision on finding a full-time coach.
“I think having a coach is great, but you are on your own on the court,” she said on Sunday. “I don’t think it is great to be dependent. You need to coach yourself. That is something I am learning. Part of the experience I am having is being able to learn to coach myself. Sometimes it won’t always work, like in Indian Wells, but in the long-term if I keep doing that then I will be better in the situations in the future. That’s it.”
Despite her inexperience on the tour, she was quick to quell any doubts about her ability to self-correct. When asked directly who would be coaching her this week, she confirmed bluntly with a one-word answer: “Myself.”
Raducanu has previously opted against settling on the input of one expert, and she has been known to work with a variety of coaches for different elements of her game. After sacking Richardson, who it is believed was on a short-term contract, last month, she said that she was looking for a coach with more “tour level experience” to guide her through her next chapter, inside the world’s top 25.
On Sunday she confirmed reports that she underwent a trial with Johanna Konta’s former coach, Spaniard Esteban Carril, at the National Tennis Centre last week, but he is not the only option. “I had a trial with him, but I also had trials with others [last week],” she said. “I am feeling optimistic about trying to have something in place for the off-season and the Australian Open. No, I haven’t decided on the coach. But things are moving forward.”
The Transylvania Open and Linz in Austria next month are likely the last two competitive events on her calendar this year. Her Australian Open performance in January, and the 2022 season more generally, could well rest on her preparations during the off-season, so the clock is ticking on finding someone who fits into her team.
But coaching decisions looked far from her mind on Sunday, during an open training session at the BT Arena in Cluj with Romania’s Elena-Gabriela Ruse. Due to emergency government coronavirus measures implemented over the weekend, Sunday was the fans’ final opportunity to get a glimpse of the players, as the entire tournament will take place behind closed doors as from Monday..
A couple of hundred supporters attended Raducanu’s training session, and she was later given the opportunity to address the home crowd, along with three Romanian players – Ruse, Anna Bogdan and Monica Niculescu. She was cheered along as she spoke in fluent Romanian – her third language after English and Mandarin – describing her pride at playing in her father’s homeland. Her grandmother Niculina lives in Bucharest, and she said she expected to visit her after the tournament is over.
“I love Romania. I used to come once or twice a year to visit my grandmother,” she said. “The welcome I got was really, really nice and I always love coming back.
“I can understand, I’d say, 80 per cent,” she said of her grasp of the language. “I just really struggle to find my words and vocabulary. The more I spend time here, the more I immerse myself in the language, I can pick it up reasonably fast.”