Emma Raducanu “manages” her back problem before the Italian Open | Tennis
Emma Raducanu says she’s still ‘dealing with’ the back problem she suffered last week in Madrid and the various issues that accompanied her first season on tour as she prepares for the Italian Open which will start on Monday.
“I think it just comes from a lot of intensity and overload,” Raducanu said. “My back, I manage it. As if it was good. But it’s just trying to adapt to the long games again, to the intensity. I think all the little worries I get are all related and connected to each other, when something is maybe overcompensating. Yes, we will see.
Raducanu previously played a practice with Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova in the shadow of Rome’s vast central court. Between points, she and Iain Bates, head of women’s tennis at the Lawn Tennis Association, discussed technique and tactics, but with her longtime physio Tom Cornish. They also constantly laughed together after wild misses and spectacular winners.
Their jovial mood contrasted sharply with the deadpan demeanor of Kudermetova and her coach-husband, Sergei Demekhine, through the net, but even through the laughs one noticed how many times Raducanu reached for her back. She may not be in top form, but one of the realities of professional tennis is that most players carry some sort of marigold. She plays on it.
Raducanu arrives in Roma having exceeded expectations so far in his debut season on clay, winning two matches in Stuttgart and Madrid. This is Raducanu’s first time seeing the picturesque Foro Italico – once known as Foro Mussolini – and the courts themselves will be a whole different challenge. Stuttgart, played indoors on oil-soaked courts, and Madrid, where the ball flies high, are among the fastest clay court conditions on the tour and useful for players who have honed their game on faster surfaces.
Rome is much closer to what people think of as clay court conditions: thick, heavy surfaces that smother the ball and slow it down, encouraging long rallies of attrition and forcing players to outsmart their opponents instead to cross them. None of this was lost on Raducanu despite being in Rome for only a few days.
“I think here it’s completely the opposite,” she said. “It’s quite heavy and slow, so there will be much longer points. It will be interesting to see what the differences are. But I can already feel them on the tennis court.
She will continue her adjustments in a fascinating first-round match, with Raducanu and Bianca Andreescu going head-to-head for the first time. The winner could face an even bigger second-round match, with either Naomi Osaka or Sara Sorribes-Tormo next.
Before Raducanu won the US Open at 18 in 2021, Andreescu was the sensational story of the women’s tour, doing so at 19 at the US Open in 2019, beating Serena Williams in the final and after winning two finals WTA 1000. Both have Romanian heritage and they have naturally been compared to each other, but Andreescu is now an example of how difficult it is to follow a first major victory.
After his various physical issues, Andreescu is just returning for the clay-court season after a six-month mental health hiatus. “Of course we are both very good players,” said Raducanu. “It’s going to be a good game, that’s for sure. She is a great athlete and obviously a champion. She has a very good attitude. Yes, I think it will be interesting.
As Raducanu discussed the upcoming game, she spoke enthusiastically about her preparation for Andreescu and the independence of her scouting process now that she is without a permanent coach. For Raducanu, this independent streak is reflected on the pitch.
“I would describe myself as a loner,” she laughs. “No, I mean, I like being alone, but of course I also like being in a group. I can easily and very happily spend a lot of time by myself. I think that’s something that happens. passes both off the field and on the field.