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Emma Raducanu insisted she will not let outside criticism affect her as she found herself the target of an unlikely verbal volley from England rugby coach Eddie Jones.
Speaking about exciting young star Marcus Smith, Jones said: “The big thing for good young players is distractions. There’s a reason why the young girl who won the US Open hasn’t done so well afterwards.”
Jones is the latest high-profile figure to voice an opinion on Raducanu’s career since her spectacular success in New York, with the 18-year-old’s decision not to continue with coach Andrew Richardson prompting an extraordinary amount of interest inside and outside tennis.
— Emma Raducanu (@EmmaRaducanu) September 22, 2021
It is a measure of the speed and trajectory of the teenager’s rise to fame that every decision she makes is treated with great importance, but Raducanu is happy to let it all wash over her.
Speaking before Jones’ comments were made public, she said: “I don’t read any of the news or keep in touch with that much.
“I keep myself all quite small and I have a few people that I really trust and I get their opinions. The people that I would ask for their advice, I know pretty well personally. I do speak to some other people, some past champions.”
Jones’ criticism centred on Raducanu’s off-court activities. Since her victory at Flushing Meadows she has attended the Met Gala in New York and the premiere of the James Bond film No Time To Die in London and signed commercial deals with luxury brands Tiffany and Dior.
She has also played two tournaments – losing her first match as a grand slam champion in Indian Wells before winning her first two WTA Tour matches in Romania – and will contest her final event of the season this week as top seed at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz.
Raducanu has been praised since her junior days for her professionalism and attitude as she combined tennis with full-time education and she has repeatedly said that her focus is very much on the court despite the opportunities now afforded to her.
Speaking on Saturday, the teenager said: “I made it a priority, I made it very, very clear to every single person in my team that I was not going to cancel one training session or practice session for any off-court commitments.
“That was a non-negotiable for me because I wanted to make sure that is my priority, and it is. Everyone’s clear about that.”
Jones has received plenty of criticism on social media for his comments but it is another reminder that, despite the sheer improbability of Raducanu’s triumph being a key facet of the story, that will not necessarily buy her the patience she deserves as she continues to take her first steps in the professional game.
Linz will be Raducanu’s final tournament of the season, after which she will take a short break to recharge and reflect before embarking on a first serious winter training block.
Having missed out on much of the physical work done by her contemporaries because of her educational commitments, Raducanu sees that as the biggest area where she needs to make strides.
— Emma Raducanu (@EmmaRaducanu) September 29, 2021
“I think I still have a lot of work to do,” she said. “I have been playing a bit better this tournament and when I’m practising here, just building. I haven’t played that many matches since New York so I’m just trying to get into a rhythm again.
“In pre-season I’m going to get a lot of work done and leading up to Australia. But I think I improve a lot playing a lot of matches so next year when I’m on the tour I’m just really excited to be able to play a full schedule. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.
“I’m looking forward to being able to hopefully see some really good physical gains. I feel like that’s one area where I’m really lacking but, at the same time, I’m pretty realistic that in four weeks you can’t really change as much as you would want to.
— WTA Linz (@WTALinz) November 7, 2021
“I think that’s going to be an ongoing thing to just fix as I’m on the tour and I’ll get fitter by playing matches as well. Obviously I’ll do a lot of tennis work on some specific areas I feel like I could improve. But the areas I need to improve in tennis I feel are all somewhat linked to the physical, so that’s the priority.”
Raducanu already ticked one new box on Monday by becoming just the fifth British woman since the rankings system was introduced to break into the world’s top 20.
With ranking points from the 2019 events that were still being counted finally dropping off, Johanna Konta – who has been badly affected by injury and illness this year – finds herself outside the top 100 for the first time since 2015 at 112, while Venus Williams is down at 314.