Emma Raducanu admits she had no idea how winning the US Open would affect her tennis but hopes she has found the right formula again.
The 19-year-old stunned the sporting world 12 months ago as her aggressive approach propelled her to the title without dropping a set.
Raducanu vowed afterwards to keep the same free-swinging attitude but now accepts that was much easier said than done with expectations sky high and attention on her every move.
She told the PA news agency: “I think looking back I can say there’s been many months in the year since that I haven’t actually been swinging freely.
“It’s very easy at the time but, when you have absolutely no idea what’s about to hit you, to say something like that, I was still on that energy from those two weeks. Obviously a lot of stuff has happened since.”
Since becoming the first player ever to win 10 matches at the same slam, Raducanu has failed to win more than two at any tournament, so the chances of anything approaching a repeat appear very slim.
But she at least arrived at Flushing Meadows with some positive momentum after reaching the third round in Cincinnati last week, beating Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka before losing a close contest with top-10 American Jessica Pegula.
Raducanu, who is having a trial period with Russian coach Dmitry Tursunov, was also being noticeably more aggressive again and she intends to maintain the same approach.
“There’s been tournaments for sure where I wasn’t doing that but I’m very pleased with Cincinnati, how I was able to, and I think to see the rewards that brings, playing Serena and Vika back to back and having a pretty tight match against Jessie, my level was definitely showing some positive signs,” she said.
“Results and wins, they don’t come by often but obviously when they do you have to really cherish it and take the positive energy from it and I do take the confidence of knowing I have the ability to produce that sort of level.
“To play Vika and Serena, even if it’s not necessarily all about tennis, a massive part is mental, just to stay focused, not be intimidated by who you’re playing on the other side of the net.
“To have that belief which I did have in Cincinnati, I think I’m just going to carry that through and try and keep that up here.”
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 27, 2022
Raducanu took her first steps back in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday, taking time to soak it all in before a practice session with Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.
This was a much more positive session than Friday’s, when Raducanu broke down in tears, sparking concerns about another potential injury.
She put it down to a bad day and it would not be surprising if being back at Flushing Meadows was a little overwhelming for the teenager.
“Twelve months, it’s obviously a bit of a long time, but, coming back here, it honestly feels like I’ve never left,” she said.
“Coming to the city, it’s just gone so quickly. So much has happened but I feel like I was here yesterday or last week. It’s a really strange feeling. I’ve obviously learned a lot but time flies.”