Emma Raducanu basks in ‘some of the best tennis of my career’ at BJK Cup

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Emma Raducanu believes she is playing some of the best tennis of her career and wants to build on the momentum from her leading role in Great Britain’s qualification for the Billie Jean King Cup finals to re-establish herself at the top of the sport.

“My last [BJK] Cup tie was in the Czech Republic two years ago,” said Raducanu. “It’s great to see how far I’ve come on a lot of notes, tennis-wise. I’ve for sure improved. I feel like I’m playing some of the best tennis of my career and my life so I’m very pleased with that. And emotionally, mentally, for me to come through the moments that I did the last few days, it took a lot of strong character, especially when the entire stadium is pretty much against you. I can just take a lot of positivity and I really enjoyed this week.”

Across the BJK Cup weekend, the 21-year-old clinched two of Great Britain’s three points as they upset France 3-1 on indoor clay in Le Portel, a small coastal town in northern France. She described her performances as ranking “really, really high” among the best achievements in her career.

It was impressive enough that Raducanu recovered from a set down in both matches to clinch three-set wins over Caroline Garcia and Diane Parry and that she handled the pressure with her team relying so heavily on her. But what made her performance special was the level that she sustained throughout the tie.

In both matches Raducanu had to accept that she was still playing well even after losing the opening sets. She responded to those early setbacks by playing bold attacking tennis, taking the ball early, eviscerating returns and particularly striking her forehand with sustained authority. Her movement also showed the physical progress she has made. It was some of the best tennis she has played in her career and her biggest achievement since winning the US Open in 2021. Her level also signified more improvement on an unfamiliar surface.

“I’m actually enjoying [the clay],” she said. “It’s like when you’re not so sure about something at the start, the more you try and make yourself like it, the more you start actually liking it. I’m honestly really enjoying it, I always felt like my movement has always been a strength on this surface. It was more just my patience and my fitness to stay in the long rallies and build the points. It’s definitely a budding relationship.”

Professional tennis can be a solitary and lonely pursuit, but the rapport that Raducanu and her ­teammates built in Le Portel was surely conducive to her comfort on the court. After her heavy opening loss, Katie Boulter received a supportive message from Raducanu on Friday night, which Boulter cited as instrumental in her recovering to defeat Clara Burel on Saturday.

During their press conference, Raducanu and Anne Keothavong, the GB captain, also laughed about an inside joke among the team. Raducanu and Fran Jones, the fifth singles player, decided that they are going to take a trip to Tuscany at the end of the year. Through laughter, Raducanu declined to explain the origin of the joke. “It was the running joke of the week. When we celebrated at the end, we shouted ‘Tuscany!’ and the rest of them are invited to our little weekend in Tuscany as well.”

In the bigger picture, this seems like precisely the type of moment that Raducanu has been waiting for. The past two and a half years have been extremely challenging as she has tried to find her way after such an unexpected early breakthrough at the US Open.

Along with the uncomfortable scrutiny and expectations, her progress has been stunted by countless injuries and a lack of continuity within her team. But since returning at the beginning of the year from her three surgeries, Raducanu has finally found a sustained period of health and it has allowed her to progress on the court.

It remains to be seen how significant this week will be in the context of the rest of her season, but it certainly seems that she took a significant step forward in Le Portel and has the opportunity to use it as a springboard for even greater success.

This is also a significant moment for the Great Britain BJK Cup team in general. Having spent much of her playing career battling for promotion out of the extremely difficult Euro-Africa zonal groups, Keothavong knows how far her team have come. Now they can field a top-30 player and a grand slam champion, and defeat one of the sport’s stronger nations. Having secured such a significant win on their least familiar surface, they will head to Seville knowing many things are possible on far more familiar, favoured indoor hard courts.

 

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