At Wimbledon, Emma Raducanu’s Withdrawal Renews Focus on Well Being

At Wimbledon, Emma Raducanu’s Withdrawal Renews Focus on Well Being
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At Wimbledon, Emma Raducanu’s Withdrawal Renews Focus on Well Being

At Wimbledon, Emma Raducanu’s Withdrawal Renews Focus on Well Being

WIMBLEDON, England – A day after British teenager Emma Raducanu struggled to control her breathing and pulled out of her fourth round match at Wimbledon, she was back on the BBC for an interview with the host of longtime Sue Barker.

“I don’t know what caused it,” Raducanu said. “I think it was a combination of everything that happened behind the scenes last week, the build-up of excitement, the buzz.”

Raducanu, 18, arrived for her first main draw appearance at Wimbledon with a wild card and ranking of 338 and beat three experienced players in straight sets before retiring against Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia on Monday as she shot from rear 4-6, 0 -3.

It was scary to see her put her left hand on her abdomen and chest with obvious concern in the last few games before calling the coach. It was also a reminder of the pressures of elite sport. It’s quite an adjustment to play in something as exciting and potentially overwhelming as Wimbledon, especially for a young British prospect suddenly put in the spotlight.

Prosperity is not a given.

“I think when you have the long lens of the present looking at you you just don’t know how you’re going to react,” said Mark Petchey, the coach, commentator and former British player who worked with Raducanu. “When great champions come out, with their experience, we know it because we’ve seen them do it time and time again. But someone like Emma was walking in a huge void of the unknown, and she didn’t know how she was going to react.

Before Wimbledon, Raducanu said the largest crowd she had played before was “maybe a hundred” people. On Monday night, she was in Court No. 1 under a closed roof with a few thousand roars for her. It was exhilarating but ultimately too much, at least on this occasion.

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“I think it’s a great learning experience for me in the future,” she told Barker in her interview. “Now I hope I will be better prepared next time. “

Meanwhile, tennis officials can continue to think about how to better serve the well-being of players, especially the younger ones. It has been a considerable period of reflection in the sport since Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from Roland Garros after a clash with officials over her decision to skip press conferences. When she stepped down ahead of her second-round match, she revealed that she had suffered bouts of depression since winning her first Grand Slam singles title in 2018 at the US Open.

The cases of Raducanu and Osaka are not necessarily comparable.

“Emma was really a competitive situation where all of a sudden it got overwhelming,” said Petchey. “I don’t think Emma will feel that personally again, and I think it’s very different from Naomi’s situation, who I think is the most touchy in our sport right now because she’s a megastar, and somehow we have to solve it. “

Osaka, who represents Japan but is based in the United States, has not competed since Roland Garros, skipping Wimbledon to hang out with friends and family at his home in California. But she confirmed this week to Japanese broadcaster NHK that she intends to participate in the Tokyo Olympics which will begin on July 23 and the press conferences that will form part of it, while taking her mental health into account.

Restoring this dialogue with the public and the media seems a conciliatory and constructive step after the stalemate in Paris last month.

Her critiques of the existing system, which she finds repetitive and too often negative, and her openness to her mental and emotional struggles have also raised awareness in tennis and beyond to the challenges players face in the limelight.

Osaka’s generation seems more sensitive to this struggle and more willing to make concessions to it. One of the changes is to avoid judgment.

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“There is always a context and always something going on behind the scenes,” said Daria Abramowicz, a sports psychologist who works with Polish tennis star Iga Swiatek, 20, and other athletes in the world. ‘elite. “Even if you have a platform to talk to, that doesn’t mean you always have to use it. I think this is one of the big challenges in life in the internet age for everyone, but sports are kind of a magnifying glass. It’s easy to form an opinion, but not always good to do it without context or data, as it could be very harmful.

Abramowicz, who was advising Swiatek long before she won last year’s French Open, said it was vital to prepare athletes for what they might face rather than just helping them cope. after facing him.

“I also think that we often prepare athletes for defeat, how to deal with it and deal with it, but we don’t do enough to prepare them for what you do when you reach your top level and succeed,” she declared.

Abramowicz is encouraged to see more athletes, including tennis stars like Daniil Medvedev of Russia and Ons Jabeur of Tunisia at Wimbledon, openly working with sports psychologists and mental coaches.

But she believes anyone who comes into regular contact with the players needs to be better educated about mental health.

“Everyone from stakeholders to coaches, physiotherapists, journalists to former players who work for media platforms,” she said. “After Roland Garros I’ve already seen a difference with the WTA media team and the way they approach players after a game. They question their well-being and wonder if they feel comfortable doing press after a game and when is the best time to do it. So we have changes.

After Raducanu retired on Monday, John McEnroe, a former player who works as an analyst for the BBC, said he felt bad for her and it seemed like the experience had been “a bit too much, as can be. understand it”. His comments attracted Judy Murray review, Andy Murray’s mother, and others to be speculative, coming before Raducanu herself spoke.

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Younger and less experienced players deserve the most considerate treatment. Putting Raducanu in a prime-time TV slot on Court No.1 may not have been, in hindsight, the wisest or most empathetic decision. It was also not reassuring to read a story in the British media on the morning of her fourth round match that predicted Raducanu could be one of the top three winners in women’s tennis if she could ‘maintain her form’.

It seemed premature at best, destructive at worst.

“I think it’s irresponsible to get into the realm of hypothesis so quickly,” Petchey said. “We are reckless not to learn from history through the media. Accumulating this on the shoulders of an 18-year-old girl is quite unnecessary for her development as a human being. Because basically what you are doing is setting the bar so high that anything other than being multiple times Grand Slam champion is considered a failure.

Hopefully Raducanu missed this piece as she and her team did their best to keep it in the moment.

“I didn’t spend that much time on my phone, I checked the news,” she said on Tuesday. “We just got in our bubble, doing our own thing, focusing on the process, doing everything in our power and under our control to prepare for the game ahead.”

It was a game she couldn’t complete, but what is reassuring is that the next time she plays at Wimbledon she will know firsthand what to expect.

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