Tim Henman says the hype around US Open champion Emma Raducanu needs to be diluted
FORMER British No 1 Tim Henman believes the hype around US Open champion Emma Raducanu needs to be dialled down, as the spotlight is being shone on the teenager ahead of the start of Wimbledon tomorrow.
Raducanu, 19, has landed lucrative sponsorship deals with Porsche, British Airways, Tiffany and Co, Vodafone, Evian and HSBC since she created sporting history by becoming the first player to come through qualifying and win a Grand Slam title in New York last September.
That meteoric rise to fame has ensured the expectations around Raducanu as she plays in her home Grand Slam are reaching fever pitch, but Henman has told the Sunday World that this might not be her moment to shine on the grass of the All England Club.
Henman was the focus of intense media scrutiny each summer in a career that saw him reach four Wimbledon semi-finals, so he speaks from experience when he suggests external pressures can contribute to an unwanted burden on the court.
"There is an unrealistic expectation there with Emma, but it is something she can't control," said Henman, speaking to the Sunday World at a Vodafone Play Your Way To Wimbledon event.
"I know what it's like to be in that spotlight as I had it every summer for a decade and it is not easy.
"When the media started blaming me for the weather, I knew expectations are a little too high, but you have to try and block it out.
"That is easier said than done, especially for someone who is 19 and just experiencing this kind of hype for the first time at Wimbledon.
"Emma did great at Wimbledon last year as she reached the last-16 and we just have to hope she is fit and able to perform because we have all seen how good she can be.
"She has got a very wise head on young shoulders and the two things she can control are her preparation and performance. That is what she should be focusing on.
"The way she played in New York (at the US Open) was just incredible.
"You think of all the greats in our sport and no one has ever qualified and made the final of a Slam, let alone reach a final and win it.
"The ability is there and we just have to stay patient.
"If things don't go according to play at Wimbledon this year, she has got many more ahead of her."
Injuries have affected Raducanu's ambitions over the last 12 months, with the 19-year-old often being hampered by niggling problems that continued as she pulled out of the Rothesay Open Nottingham earlier this month.
That injury has hampered Raducanu's pre-Wimbledon build-up and Henman believes improving her physicality will be as important as fine tuning her game as she aim to win more big titles.
"Her preparation has not been ideal and no one will be more frustrated than Emma herself because she wants to be out there competing," added Henman.
"The matches she has lost this year on tour, very little has been about her tennis. It's been more to do with the physicality.
"She needs to build up that resilience and have time away from tournament play to build up those training blocks.
"From 12 months ago, it has just been non-stop and the opportunity she had at the end of last year was ruined because she got Covid and was stuck in a hotel room for three weeks.
"So she has had plenty of bumps in the road, but you have got to stay patient because she is on a long journey and is going to be fine."
Raducanu's fitness has cast doubt over her appearance at Wimbledon, but she is due to start her campaign as she makes her Centre Court debut against experience rival Alison Van Uytvanck, who has recently won a grass court event.
World No 1 Iga Swiatek is the outstanding favourite in the women's tournament that will also feature a 40-year-old seven-time champion Serena Williams, who is playing her first tournament since limping out of Wimbledon a year ago,
Williams is a 25/1 outsider to lift the trophy, with Raducanu a 40/1 long shot with Paddy Power.
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