Is Raducanu's coaching merry-go-round madness or just the modern way?

Is Emma Raducanu’s coaching merry-go-round madness or just the modern way? The star has raised eyebrows by trying a host of trainers since her US Open miracle before settling on Jane O’Donoghue

  • Emma Raducanu hasn’t settled on a regular coaching team ahead of Wimbledon 
  • Raducanu chose to stop working with Andrew Richardson despite US Open win
  • She has now opted to work with her youth coach Jane O’Donoghue  
  • Cameron Norrie’s example of having a settled coaching team is good guidance

At this point Andrew Richardson might have thought he would be preparing Emma Raducanu for her first tilt at Wimbledon as a bona fide star.

Instead, the ex British Davis Cup player, who got a major assist in her astonishing US Open triumph, will be in Spain over the next two weeks.

Rather than experience the maelstrom of SW19, Richardson will be with one of his sons at a domestic junior event in Valencia.

Andrew Richardson played a key part in Emma Raducanu’s US Open success but didn’t have his coaching arrangement extended

Raducanu’s coaching and support team situation remains perplexing going into Wimbledon

He has fairly vanished off the map since being part of one of modern sport’s great stories, coaching Raducanu to the US Open title before not having their arrangement extended thereafter.

Since then he has chosen to keep the lowest of profiles, spending many weeks based at the academy of former Spanish top tenner David Ferrer in southern Spain.

He coaches part-time there while aiding the development of his promising offspring Rocco, who he accompanied to the renowned Orange Bowl junior tennis championships in Florida before Christmas.

According to one staff member at Ferrer’s he has quickly become a popular and highly-rated part of their workforce.

Richardson, a self-effacing man who has never sought the limelight, has steadfastly refused to publicly discuss anything to do with his coaching split from Raducanu.

However, it can be said that he would have been happy to continue after the US Open on more permanent terms. He was also keen to implement a strategic plan to take her forward during what was always going to be a difficult period of adjustment.

How successful it would have been we will never know, and he will not be around to see how this fortnight goes. But it is assuredly the case that the intervening nine months have not been easy for someone who became, from nowhere, arguably the biggest name in British sport. They were never likely to be.

Even on Friday the uncertainty continued, with her cancelling scheduled practice on Court Number One with former champion Garbine Muguruza.

It is far from guaranteed that she will line up on Monday against the highly useful Belgian grass court player, Alison Van Uytvanck.

Richardson (second from right) has vanished off the map since being part of one of modern sport’s great stories

Expectations should be tempered if/when she does because, having completed her A-levels at school, Raducanu missed out on many of the building blocks upon which her contemporaries stand. It is as if she secured a First from Oxbridge having barely done her GCSEs.

There is no playbook for an unprecedented rise like hers, and one should be careful in second guessing coaching needs in a deeply individual sport like tennis.

Yet what the removal of Richardson did was amplify all the noise around her at a time when calm stability would have been hugely valuable.

Her coaching and support team situation remains perplexing, to say the least. The reason given for moving on from Richardson was that he lacked sufficient current knowledge of the elite end of the women’s game.

There was some logic to that, but it hardly applies to those she has been relying on most recently.

In the past couple of weeks she has been working with Jane O’ Donoghue, who was a popular and highly-rated coach at the Lawn Tennis Association until she left in 2019.

O’ Donoghue is now employed by the Royal Bank of Canada, having chosen to pursue an alternative career in finance. Also acting as a technical consultant has been the Lawn Tennis Association’s veteran doubles guru, Louis Cayer.

Remarkably, Cayer has been quite open in declaring that his priority remains GB’s male doubles players, rather than the British game’s biggest star.

It is perhaps telling that Raducanu, who has always done things her own way, has turned to O’ Donoghue at this time. She is someone the 19 year-old implicitly trusts, and who also gets on well with her parents.

They went away on some foreign trips in the junior days and have a mutual understanding. As someone highly interested in the world of finance, it is also likely that Raducanu also respects her outside qualifications and hinterland.

Louis Cayer has admitted his priority remains male doubles players rather than Raducanu

Her big coaching pick after Richardson was Torben Beltz, who had been successful with fellow German Angelique Kerber. While liking him on a personal level, the Kent teenager quickly worked out he was not a good fit for her tennis, and by late March the decision had been taken to part.

Not everyone on the tour likes having a permanent coach, and the Raducanus’ approach towards gleaning technical advice has always been transactional. Different styles suit different players.

What is more baffling to observers is the continued lack of a settled physio and trainer arrangement, especially for someone who has acknowledged that the physical side of the game is a challenging work in progress.

The LTA’s Will Herbert was her physio in New York and played a crucial part, but he continues to service other players as part of his duties with the national performance team.

When Raducanu played in the first round of the French Open, for example, it was notable that he did not arrive for her match to sit in the support group until late in the opening set. He was said to have been detained by commitments to other Brits in action at Roland Garros.

It is hardly as if the British number one could not afford to pay for a bespoke set-up to look after her needs.

As is well-established, she has nine blue chip endorsements on long-term deals who are spending well over £10 million on being associated with a sponsor’s dream.

Torben Beltz had success with Angelique Kerber but lasted five months as Raducanu’s coach 

Her manager, Max Eisenbud, this week spoke to the BBC’s Sport Desk podcast about how even an experienced operator like him had never known such interest in a client in the wake of her Flushing Meadows triumph.

He explained that, contrary to some impressions, her portfolio of endorsements would only require 18 days of servicing each year. That is significant enough, but a calendar spreadsheet is used to ensure that commitments do not clash with tournaments or training periods.

‘Literally we could have done 50 days of shoots,’ he said. ‘ I have never seen the amount of excitement and companies who wanted to be in business with Emma. Doing 18 days we left millions and millions of dollars off the table.’

He insisted that these had not impacted her tennis: ‘ If she had zero shoot dates everything would have been the same.’

Raducanu has now opted to work with her youth coach Jane O’Donoghue

There is no doubt that Raducanu was set back by catching Covid in December, pretty much in the middle of what was meant to be her pre-season training block. It could also be argued that her 6-5 match record during her first clay court season at any level was a creditable effort.

Elsewhere it has been a tale of mainly defeats, calls for running repairs on court or outright retirements.

It is easy to have sympathy for someone facing such unique pressures, but at the same time you have to help yourself.

A good person for her to look at would be her British number one male counterpart, Cam Norrie. He keeps life simple, has a settled support team around him and is maxing out on his natural ability as much as any player on tour.

If Raducanu can manage a version of that there are few limits for her, and there should be glories ahead at Wimbledon and elsewhere – although it is surely too late for this year.

Raducanu could take advice from Cameron Norrie, who has a settled support team

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