Next week, Emma Radacanu will step onto a tennis court for the first time since her life changed forever when she won the US Open. Now, Radacanu is a global superstar. In recent weeks, she has attended the premiere for No Time To Die at the Royal Albert Hall, as well as the prestigious Met Gala in New York, and she has even played a game of tennis with the Duchess of Cambridge.
She has been interviewed on every TV channel and every radio station. Her face has been on the front cover of every newspaper and magazine. At the beginning of this year, Radacanu had 9,618 followers on Instagram. Now, she has over two million.
With overnight fame, however, there should always be caution. Just watch any Hollywood film. I am not saying that the fame and the money will get to her head (that old cliché), but the celebrity status cannot but increase the pressure on her young shoulders. She is only eighteen, after all.
The media attention has already been extraordinary. Every aspect of her life has been scrutinized. If you were her grandmother or just someone who randomly saw her shopping at Tesco, you would probably have been interviewed about her by now.
Unfortunately, this is just the beginning. Her future career and life will be under the microscope. Everything that she says will be heard. Everything that she does will be seen. Every mistake that she makes (including losing tennis matches, and she will lose tennis matches) will be criticized by the media and on social media.
Sadly, as a young woman from a diverse background (a fact that should be – and thus far has been – celebrated), she is also likely to experience harsher criticism.
It is also worth remembering that she is a tennis player, and a very inexperienced one at that. Despite winning a Grand Slam, she has never even won a match on the main WTA tour. Despite winning a Grand Slam, she has never played a professional match on a clay court. Despite winning a Grand Slam, she has never even played a three-set match at tour level.
There are also the cautionary tales of tennis players who have had great success in their youth but who have never been able to reach the same heights again. Radacanu might never win a Grand Slam title again. It is possible. Look at Jelena Ostapenko, who won Roland Garros in 2017 as a twenty-year-old, but who has not been anywhere near winning another major title since.
There is also the chance that she will suffer from injuries. Look at Juan Martin del Potro, whose career, after winning the US Open in 2009 also as a twenty-year-old, has been derailed by a series of horrendous injuries.
Radacanu will make her much anticipated return to the tennis court in an OAP resort town in the middle of a Californian desert. Or, in other words, Indian Wells, a Masters 1000 level event and one of the most important tournaments on the tennis calendar.
Her schedule for the rest of the year is jam-packed. After Indian Wells, she is scheduled to participate in the Kremlin Cup in Moscow and the spookily named Transylvania Open in Cluj Napoca, Romania. Perhaps Radacanu is attempting a last-minute bid to qualify for the WTA Finals in Guadalajara, Mexico. Radacanu currently sits in fifteenth position in the race. But, with qualification available to eight players and the participation of several top players already in doubt, Radacanu certainly has a good chance to qualify.
Hopefully, Radacanu’s career will continue its upward trajectory and my naysaying will be entirely unjustified. After all, Radacanu has the potential to be a multiple Grand Slam champion and an inspiration to an entire generation.
Image: si.robi via flickr