Emma Raducanu shows the tension in a bizarre press conference

Emma Raducanu - 16 questions, 58 words: Emma Raducanu shows tension in bizarre press conference - Getty Images/Robert Prange

Emma Raducanu – 16 questions, 58 words: Emma Raducanu shows tension in bizarre press conference – Getty Images/Robert Prange

Exhausted-looking Emma Raducanu showed worrying signs of tension in Madrid, beating all attempts to initiate the traditional pre-tournament talks.

Presented with 16 kind questions — on topics ranging from her chronic wrist problem to her friend and compatriot Jodie Burrage’s recent good form — Raducanu offered a combined word count of just 58 words.

After just under three minutes, the attempted conversation became so awkward that a Women’s Tennis Association media liaison officer was forced to chime in, with a brisk “I think let’s leave it at that.”

Raducanu’s uncooperative mood was unexpected, as the one area she has remained level-headed and confident since her triumphant run at the 2021 US Open title has been in her dealings with the media.

He is normally bright, talkative and engaging during press conferences. At this very tournament 12 months ago, she regaled a group of reporters with an anecdote from her about her A-levels, before gleefully adding that, “Even when I’m losing, I find it a great challenge to bounce back.”

But Raducanu’s world-weary demeanor on Tuesday made it questionable whether his recent three-game losing streak – which dates back to Indian Wells six weeks ago – has tested that resilience to breaking point.

This is an important tournament for her, as she stands to lose 110 of her 740 ranking points should she lose her first-round match. A fourth consecutive defeat would constitute the worst sequence of her professional career, also slipping her just outside the world top 100.

A triple-digit ranking could potentially impact his endorsement deals. Many players have ranking-related clauses in their contracts, though it is unknown if this applies to any of Raducanu’s eight sponsorships.

Either way, she could do with a morale-boosting victory when she takes on world No. 73 Viktoriya Tomova on Wednesday afternoon in the unusually high-altitude conditions of Madrid. Not that a deep run here seems plausible, as the winner of that first round match will face dominant world No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the next outing.

It was Swiatek who kickstarted Raducanu’s mini slump in form – which involved defeats to three consecutive Grand Slam champions – when he beat 6-3, 6-1 in the fourth round at Indian Wells. And Swiatek has only gathered strength since then, having celebrated her return to her favorite clay by lifting the Stuttgart title on Sunday.

When asked about his draw here, Raducanu halfheartedly replied “It is what it is”. She was equally unhelpful about her chronic wrist problem (“We’re handling it”) and Jelena Ostapenko’s performance in beating her 6-2, 6-1 in Stuttgart last week (“She played a great match.”)

In all, she averages three-and-a-half words per question, with the longest response coming to an inquiry into her three-set loss to Bianca Andreescu in Miami a month ago. “Yes, it was a nice trip to America, a difficult game,” said Raducanu. “But yeah, go ahead.”

How effectively that’s going on remains to be seen, because this interview hinted at someone who is starting to feel trapped in the never-ending merry-go-round of the pro tennis tour. Raducanu trained with Poland’s Magda Linette at the Caja Magica in Madrid on Tuesday morning, but one has to wonder if she feels fully ready to compete.

In March, Raducanu said he deleted Instagram and WhatsApp from his phone to insulate himself from social media negativity. Even so, he could still feel the brunt of criticism from those who expect him to play world tennis every week.

The most frequent barbs tend to concern his sponsorship commitments, which continue to be highly visible. In the last week or so alone, she’s been featured in British Airways’ new safety video – where she was filmed stowing a passenger’s luggage in the boot – and in a Vodafone campaign boasting “the world’s first 5G hologram coaching session ” between Raducanu and a couple of young aspirants.

Both of these clips were streamed to her 2.5 million Instagram followers, allegedly by a third party who now manages her account. But while Raducanu, the corporate icon, continues to come off her feet, the real-life 20-year-old behind the hoopla is starting to look like her light-hearted, shadowy former self.

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