Emma Raducanu’s enforced timeout from tennis may be just the tonic to get back to her best
Aptly, the US Open was among the first to reply to Emma Raducanu on her announcement on social media that she was undergoing three operations.
The response, like much of the rest, was a simple get well soon message to the news she was having “minor procedures” on her wrists and her ankle.
A return to the scene of her greatest triumph at the end of the summer is now off the cards, Raducanu faced with a lengthy rehabilitation process to rebuild a body already broken so early in her career on tour.
The wrists are of particular concern. The likes of another former US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro and fellow Briton Laura Robson had their careers curtailed by their own respective wrist problems.
The reassurance is that Raducanu, despite the size of the bandage encasing her right arm, insists the surgery was on the minor side.
The operations have been a long time in coming. As long ago as March last year, the 20-year-old said it was no longer sustainable just trying to manage her injuries.
As she put it, “It is safe to say the last 10 months have been difficult as I dealt with a recurring injury on a bone of both hands. I tried my best to manage the pain and play through it for most of this year and end of last year by reducing practice load dramatically. Unfortunately, it is not enough.”
She was seemingly flitting from one injury setback to the next, from one tournament withdrawal to another.
This season, she has played just nine matches in all and Madrid last week was the undoubted nadir. For someone so engaging in interviews, she was withdrawn and almost monosyllabic in her pre-tournament press conference. It left many questioning her mental as well as physical state.
Wednesday’s news now helps to explain quite the turmoil she was going through, finally accepting that the last resort had become the only viable option to get both her career and body back on track.
Having dropped out of the world’s top 100 already and with Jodie Burrage set to replace her as British No1 any time soon, Raducanu already faced a tough ask in climbing her way back up the world rankings. That task – even if her world ranking gets protected from a lengthy lay-off – now looks infinitely tougher.
And yet it could prove the turning point of an already hugely impressive career with a Grand Slam title already to her name in her teenage years.
There was a smile in her operation post, with many suggesting it was the happiest she has looked in weeks.
What her recovery now gives her is time away from being caught up in tennis’ bubble, the constant questioning about her physical state and the grind of the tour that had clearly had an effect on her.
In addition, the break might well prove to be as important for her mind as it is for her body, in a quest to return to the carefree teenager who played with such joy and abandon both at Wimbledon and at the US Open in that astonishing break-out summer.
This summer will be infinitely different. The French Open, Wimbledon and US Open will all be watched from the sidelines, her return provisionally put at the autumn by which point the season will steadily be drawing to a close.
It may yet be the minor procedures taken longer to heal than expected, that a decision is made to rule out this year altogether and start afresh with a 2024 campaign in mind. As the US Open put it, “Get well soon Emma.”