Tennis – Raducanu better now than when she won U.S Open, says Clijsters

By Thomson Reuters Aug 25, 2022 | 12:01 PM

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Emma Raducanu is a better player than when she stunned the tennis world by winning last year’s U.S. Open as a qualifier, according to former world number one Kim Clijsters.

The 19-year-old Raducanu has endured a difficult first full year on Tour with injuries and poor form limiting her match wins, but Clijsters says no one should be concerned.

“She’s already done a lot more in the lead-up to the U.S, Open than she did last year, she beaten a lot of good players,” Clijsters, an analyst for broadcaster Eurosport, told Reuters.

“She is maturing as a tennis player. I think her tennis is better now than it was when she won the U.S. Open.”

Raducanu last year became the first qualifier to claim a Grand Slam title, winning 10 matches in New York without dropping a set — catapulting her career into the stratosphere and making her one of the most marketable athletes on the planet.

The world number 11 is a modest 13-15 this year but in Cincinnati last week she thrashed Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka in consecutive rounds.

Her return to Flushing Meadows is eagerly-anticipated but Clijsters, a three-times U.S. Open champion, said expectations should be lowered for the British teenager as she learns to cope with her status as a major champion.

“When you have such a life changing experience, and I’m not talking about what happens on the court but everything else that gets added to that, even if she if she doesn’t change, people around you change,” Clijsters said.

“People look at you differently. People on the tour look at you differently whether she goes to a tournament in Luxembourg, or in Australia. Everybody knows her. Those big changes in life they take time to kind of get used to.

“It’s so unrealistic the expectations that are on her because when you play a sport, you go out there and you know, you have an opponent who’s trying to win just as hard as you.”

Rather than feel under pressure, Clijsters believes Raducanu will feel “super-excited” to be back in New York.

“I mean, is she going to win the U.S. Open?” the Belgian said. “It would be incredible if she did but there’s a lot of other players out there who have just as much chance as her.

“So it will just be a matter of seeing whether she deals with that emotion of being at the Slam and the expectations of it? She might be super excited to be there and then play really free and without any pressure.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)