Federer, Murray fall in major ranking shake-up; Norrie, Badosa into top 15

After 18 months of low activity on the ATP and WTA rankings, there have been some big post-Indian Wells moves, with Roger Federer and Andy Murray two of the most notable fallers.

With the rankings having been frozen for a significant period of time due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 52-week format is now back in use and points from eight ATP tournaments and four WTA tournaments, as well as 2020 French Open points for the women, drop off on Monday, October 18.

Federer is losing 480 points from his total which means his lengthy stay in the top 10 – which has caused some controversy as he has only played 19 matches since the start of 2020 – is over.

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The 20-time Grand Slam champion has slipped out of the top 10 for the first time since January 2017, when he returned from a six-month injury absence as world No 17 to win the Australian Open.

Federer has dropped to No 11 in the rankings behind Hubert Hurkacz, who is into the top 10 for the first time after making the Indian Wells quarter-finals. With Federer not playing again this year as he recovers from knee surgery he is likely to fall even further as he will drop 900 points from his 2019 Basel Open title and semi-final run at the 2019 ATP Finals.

Federer has not been ranked outside the top 20 since April 2001, when he was 19.

While Federer has dropped one place, Murray has plummeted from world No 121 to No 172.

Murray’s drop is because he has lost the 250 points that he held for winning the European Open in Antwerp in 2019. The Scot is back to try and win the title again this week, and will be hoping for a ranking boost ahead of the 2022 Australian Open. If he can’t get back into the top 100 then he will need a wildcard for the Grand Slam in Melbourne or will have to go through qualifying.

New British No 1 Cameron Norrie is up to No 15 in the world after winning the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.

Norrie, who battled back to beat Nikoloz Basilashvili in the final, has also got a chance to make the season-ending ATP Finals as he is now just 200 points behind Hubert Hurkacz in the last qualifying spot.

Novak Djokovic still remains world No 1 – and his position has been strengthened despite not playing since the US Open.

Djokovic has only dropped 203 points after Indian Wells while world No 2 Daniil Medvedev, who was beaten in the last 16 in California by Grigor Dimitrov, has lost 1,025 points, most of which come from winning Shanghai in 2019. Djokovic is now nearly 2000 points ahead of the Russian in the rankings.

Dimitrov battles back from a set down to stun top seed Medvedev at Indian Wells

Casper Ruud is up to a career-high No 9 in the world and closing on Dominic Thiem, who remains world No 8 despite dropping 680 points. Stan Wawrinka is out of the top 50 and down to world No 57, having not played since March.

There are two big fallers on the WTA side, where four events are dropping from the rankings and 2021 French Open points are replacing points from the rescheduled 2020 edition.

Iga Swiatek, who won the French Open in 2020, falls from world No 4 to world No 12 as she drops 1470 points. That means Naomi Osaka moves back into the top 10 despite not playing, while Ons Jabeur becomes the first Arab tennis player in a top-10 spot after her run to the semi-finals at Indian Wells.

Ons Jabeur celebrates

Image credit: Getty Images

Sofia Kenin, who lost in the 2020 French Open final, drops from world No 8 to No 14 as she loses 1059 points from her ranking. Petra Kvitova falls four spots to world No 15.

Emma Raducanu is down to world No 23 after losing her opening match at Indian Wells. Raducanu gained 10 points for her result in California but has been overtaken by Jessica Pegula, who made the quarter-finals last week.

Paula Badosa is up to a career-high world No 11 after winning the title at Indian Wells while runner-up Victoria Azarenka moves up to No 26.

‘I feel tired and angry…the system is unfair’

Danish youngster Holger Rune has voiced his frustration at the ATP rankings and the fact it has been so difficult for players to move up in the revised system over the last 18 months.

Rune, 18, has enjoyed some encouraging results but still finds himself outside the top 100 in the world and having to qualify for tournaments.

“You know I am a hard-working man and I normally never complain,” he wrote on Instagram. “This year I have fought very hard to achieve my goal of becoming top 100. ATP has continuously made it very difficult for me and many other young upcoming players because they have had a frozen ranking from 2019 meaning players on the ATP ranking still have their points from results made in 2019.

“Looking two years back on the normal ranking I would today be ranked 62 in the world and not 124. Does it matter? Yes when you are ambitious and hard working it matters to get your reward. With that ranking I would be able to enter better tournaments and I would feel that my hard work paid off.

“I feel tired and angry now because I think the system is unfair. I love my tennis but we have to compete on equal conditions.”

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Australian Open: Will players need to be vaccinated? What are quarantine rules?

The 2022 Australian Open is just over three months away and already attention has turned to the Covid-19 regulations that are going to be in place at the tournament.

Earlier this year in Melbourne players were placed in strict hotel quarantine due to the pandemic, with limited training time and some not allowed out until close to the start of the Grand Slam. The rules may be loosened a little in January, but players are likely to be in bio-secure bubbles, may need to travel to Australia over Christmas, and there are reports that it could be mandatory to be vaccinated to compete.

Ahead of the opening Grand Slam of 2022 we look at what’s in store and what it could mean for the likes of Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and more…

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What’s the situation in Melbourne?

This week Melbourne passed 246 days in lockdown and overtook Buenos Aires as the city that has spent the most cumulative time in lockdown. But restrictions will reportedly be lifted once the vaccination rate in the state of Victoria gets to 70 per cent, which is expected to be later this month. There were protests in September over the lockdown.

When will players have to travel to Australia?

There won’t be much celebrating over Christmas for most players who are planning to compete at the Australian Open.

Like this year, qualifying is set to take place in the Middle East, with the women’s event in Dubai and the men’s qualifying in Abu Dhabi. The final round of qualifying is scheduled to take place around Christmas Eve.

For those who don’t have to qualify there will still be travel over the Christmas period due to the quarantine regulations on arrival. The Australian Open starts on January 17 and there will likely be warm-up tournaments in the fortnight leading up to it.

Current Australian rules state that all international travellers entering the country need to undertake a mandatory 14-day quarantine at a designated facility.

US Open champion Emma Raducanu has said that she has no problems with travel over the festive period. “Whatever needs to be done to be able to play the Australian Open, I’ll do. To me it’s not even a thought or like a battle in my mind. I just want to be at the Australian Open, and I want to compete there, so, whatever it takes to do, I’ll go.”

What rules will be in place?

It is expected that rather than being placed in hotel quarantine as they were this year, players will be in bio-secure bubbles, which will allow them slightly more freedom. The regulations at the 2021 Australian Open frustrated some players as they were unable to train as much as they wanted and had to spend most of their time in their hotel room. There were concerns that two weeks of inactivity followed by matches could cause injuries, and Djokovic wrote to Australian Open officials to see if the rules could be eased – a move that wasn’t successful and saw Nick Kyrgios brand him a “tool”.

Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley said in August that the planned bubble for 2022 would allow players “to move freely between the hotel and courts”.

They’re protected, they’re kept safe among themselves and safe from the community as well. And after those two weeks they’ll come out and be able to compete in the Australian Open in front of crowds.

It is not yet clear how many fans will be able to attend each day at Melbourne Park, with attendances at the 2021 Australian Open capped. There were also several days without any fans as Victoria went into a five-day lockdown.

Will players need to be vaccinated to play?

It has been reported in Australia that players will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to compete at the Australian Open and there will be no exceptions made.

Daniel Andrews, the head government official in the state of Victoria, said recently: “The only title that will protect you is you being able to have had your first dose and second dose. If you are coming to visit, the notion of you getting in here without being vaccinated, I think, is very, very low.”

The decision could have an impact on Djokovic’s chances of winning a 21st Grand Slam in Melbourne.

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The Australian Open has been his most successful major but he has been sceptical about the vaccine in the past and has said he doesn’t think it should be a requirement to play on the tour. He has not revealed if he has had a first vaccine dose yet.

Djokovic is not the only one whose plans could be impacted.

At the US Open this summer an ATP spokesman said that just above 50 per cent of male players were vaccinated, even though the men’s tour “continues to strongly recommend vaccination to players.” A WTA spokeswoman said nearly half of female players were vaccinated and they hoped to get that number above 85 per cent by the end of the year.

World No 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas said in August that he didn’t plan on getting the vaccine until it was mandatory to play on tour – but then made a U-turn on that decision after getting criticism from the Greek government. Women’s world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka said she didn’t “trust” the vaccine earlier this year, but has been ruled out of Indian Wells after testing positive. Andrey Rublev and Elina Svitolina also said they were unsure about getting the vaccine earlier this year.

The Age newspaper in Melbourne has reported that Tiley has “become resigned” to the fact that players will need to be vaccinated after conversations with government officials.

However, Ashleigh Barty’s coach Craig Tyzzer has said quarantine regulations could put players off.

“I know that players won’t come out if they have to quarantine,” he said this week. “There’s already quite a few who we’ve spoken to who have said if it’s like last year, they’re not coming.”

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Osaka drops out of WTA top 10 rankings for the first time since 2018

Former world number one Naomi Osaka dropped out of the top 10 rankings for the first time since winning the 2018 US Open.

Osaka, 23, decided to take a break from tennis following a third-round defeat to Leylah Fernandez that ended her US Open defence.

Speaking after her shock loss to Fernandez, the 23-year-old said: “This is very hard to articulate. Basically I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. Sorry.

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“I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while. How do I go around saying this? I feel like for me recently when I win I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal. I didn’t really want to cry.”

This came after the Japanese player withdrew from the French Open in May and missed Wimbledon too, revealing in a statement on Twitter that she had “​​suffered long bouts of depression” since a first Grand Slam win in 2018.

It was confirmed earlier in September that Osaka would not be in action at Indian Wells, which is one of the final big events of the 2021 season.

Osaka first took the number one spot after winning the Australian Open in 2019 but now sits 12th, falling five places down the WTA Tour rankings from number seven.

In a recent interview with HBO show, The Shop, Osaka said: “I know I am going to play again,” adding that her return would be “probably soon”.

“I kind of have that itch again,” Osaka said.

The comments mean that Osaka could feature at the 2022 Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year.

She has won the tournament in Melbourne twice, both this year and 2019, and despite falling from the top 10 will be among the favourites.

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Can Raducanu get into top 10 and secure WTA Finals place at Indian Wells?

A month after her shock US Open victory, Emma Raducanu is set to make her return to action this week. The 18-year-old, who shot from no 150 in the world to no 22 after winning her maiden Grand Slam title, has been given a wildcard for the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.

Not only will it be Raducanu’s first tournament as a major champion, it will be her first WTA 1000 event – the top tier outside of the four Grand Slams – and only the fifth time that she has competed in the main draw on the WTA Tour. It’s entirely new ground for the teenager, and it comes with the potential opportunity of moving closer to a place at the season-ending WTA Finals in Mexico, and making it into the top 10 in the world rankings.

Can Raducanu get into the top 10?

WTA Indian Wells

Raducanu working with British coach Bates ahead of Indian Wells

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After soaring up the rankings in New York, it’s possible that Raducanu could make another jump over the next fortnight. As she is such a newcomer to the WTA Tour she is in a unique position of having no points to defend until next summer. Others above her in the rankings need to perform well at Indian Wells otherwise they will drop down the rankings. World no 21 Bianca Andreescu was the champion at Indian Wells in 2019 and will lose a lot of points unless she can make another deep run. World no 15 Angelique Kerber, who was the Indian Wells runner-up in 2019, also has points to defend, while players who performed well at the rescheduled 2020 French Open, such as Iga Swiatek and Sofia Kenin, are set to lose those points this month. With so much movement, Raducanu is provisionally into the top 20 before Indian Wells even starts.

As Indian Wells is a WTA 1000 event there are plenty of points on offer. The winner of the tournament will get 1000 points, the runner-up 650, and semi-finalists earn 390.

It’s impossible to predict how high Raducanu could climb as how her rivals perform will also impact her, but victory would likely push her near the top 10. She is currently ranked no 22 in the world and has 2,558 ranking points to her name. Another 1,000 points would take her into 12th place, above Osaka, who is on 3,326 points, but that is not taking into account that other players could move up or down depending on their performances.

Raducanu will be seeded 18th at Indian Wells which means she will get a bye in the first round of the tournament. If she were to lose her first match she would get 35 ranking points to add to her total. If she makes the quarter-finals she would get 215 points, with a maximum of 1000 points available to the champion.

Can Raducanu secure a place at the WTA Finals?

The top eight players in the world compete at the WTA Finals, with the rankings based on yearly performance rather than the overall singles rankings, which are done on a 52-week window that has currently been extended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Raducanu is no 22 in the world but in the Race to the WTA Finals rankings she is No 15, on 2282 points. Osaka is in eighth place on 2771 points, with world no 1 Ashleigh Barty leading the way on 6411 points. However, both Barty and Osaka could miss the finals, which may open up opportunities for two more players to compete in Mexico.

As it stands, if Raducanu was to win Indian Wells she would move to 3282 points, which would be good enough for fifth place in the Race to the WTA Finals rankings.

Raducanu will be seeking more ranking points after Indian Wells as she heads back to Europe to compete in the Kremlin Cup in Moscow and the Transylvania Open in Romania, the birthplace of her father. The Kremlin Cup is the last WTA 500 tournament of the season – with 470 points on offer for the winner – and the Transylvania Open is a WTA 250 tournament with 280 points going to the champion.

How have other first-time champions fared?

With such a meteoric rise this summer, Raducanu is breaking new ground, but there have been plenty of other first-time major winners on the WTA Tour over the last few years. Since the start of 2017 there have been 10 different first-time champions – and very few have enjoyed more success immediately after becoming Grand Slam winners.

Jelena Ostapenko won just one match at the Aegon International in Eastbourne after her shock French Open victory in 2017. Sloane Stephens struggled initially after lifting the US Open later that year, losing in the first round of the Wuhan Open and then not winning another match until February 2018.

Caroline Wozniacki headed to St Petersburg after winning the 2018 Australian Open and lost in the second round, while Simona Halep was beaten in the third round of Wimbledon after her 2018 French Open win. Osaka almost followed up her maiden US Open win in 2018 with another trophy as she made the final of the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.

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Barty went one step better in 2019 as she won the French Open and then switched to grass and immediately won the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham, beating Julia Gorges in the final.

Belinda Bencic made the quarter-finals of the China Open after her surprise 2019 US Open win but has struggled since, as has Kenin after her 2020 Australian Open victory.

Swiatek only made the second round of the Gippsland Trophy after her 2020 French Open win but Barbora Krejcikova enjoyed a good month after winning in Paris this year as she made the last 16 at Wimbledon and then won in Prague.

Who else is playing Indian Wells?

The women’s field will be missing some big names as Barty, Osaka, Serena Williams and Aryna Sabalenka are all out. Barty has gone back to Australia to see her family while Osaka is taking time away from tennis and Williams is recovering from the injury that kept her out of the US Open.

World no 2 Sabalenka was set to be the top seed with Barty absent, but she has tested positive for Covid-19 so will miss the tournament.

Her withdrawal means Karolina Pliskova will be the top seed.

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'She literally built champions' – Osaka reveals how Williams inspired her

Naomi Osaka has credited Serena Williams for “literally building champions” as she praised the legacy that the 23-time Grand Slam champion is leaving behind.

Osaka, a four-time major winner, is currently taking a break from tennis following her surprise third-round defeat at the US Open earlier this month.

She has revealed that she could be back on court in the near future, and has also talked this week about how Williams has been an inspiration for her.

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“If I were to retire from tennis, I would want people to remember me with how I acted towards people and like how I interacted,” she told HBO’s The Shop.

“Serena. Her legacy is more than her being Serena. I started playing because of her. I’m sure there’s so many other girls that started playing because of her, so she literally built champions.

“And I think passing it down is how the newer generations get inspired.”

Williams, who has not played since suffering an injury in the first round of Wimbledon in July, is still bidding to win a 24th Grand Slam title that would move her level with Margaret Court’s all-time record.

Even if she doesn’t lift another major title, her coach Patrick Mouratoglou agrees with Osaka that she should be appreciated for everything else has done for the sport.

“She changed tennis,” he told AFP. “She brought an athletic dimension that there was not there at all, she opened the doors, with her sister Venus, to a whole generation of players because it was a white sport. She invented tennis intimidation because she has a presence that makes others fear her. For a very long time, it was impressive.

“She also brought the business to women’s tennis. Before her, the business was very small and with her it became huge because she has such an aura, she has become such a marketing object, too, that huge contracts are possible for the players.”

Neither Williams nor Osaka will be playing the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, which starts on October 4, and will feature US Open champion Emma Raducanu.

Osaka says she has the “itch” to return to tennis but success does not appear to be a motivating factor for the 23-year-old.

Osaka, Raducanu, Williams, Biles hit the Met Gala red carpet

“I want to feel like I’m playing for myself,” Osaka said. “And I started to feel like that power was being taken away from me in the way that I felt like I wasn’t playing to make myself happy and I was more concerned about like, if I won or lost, what would people say about me.

“And I just used to love the competition and just being competitive. If I were to play a long match, the longer it was, the more fun it was for me. And then I just started to feel, like recently, the longer it was, the more stressed out I became.

“But I just needed a break to go within myself and reclaim what was it that [provided motivation]. I’ve been playing tennis since I was three years old; for sure I love the sport, I know I’m going to play again.

“Probably soon, because I kind of have that itch again, but it wouldn’t really matter to me if I won or lost. I’d just have the joy of being back on the court, just to… know that I’m doing it for myself.”

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'We need a revolution' – Federer supports Osaka; says players need help with press

Roger Federer has called for a “revolution” in how tennis and the media work together in order to relieve stress on players on the tour.

Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open earlier this year after saying she would not do press conferences to protect her mental health.

She was fined by the Grand Slam organisers for not doing post-match media after her opening round win and withdrew from the tournament the next day.

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Britain’s US Open winner Emma Raducanu, 18, was the subject of criticism from some sections of the press after withdrawing from her fourth round match in her maiden Wimbledon appearance with breathing difficulties.

Federer believes tennis needs to do more to help the game’s young stars, such as Osaka and Raducanu, deal with negativity from all forms of media.

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He told GQ Magazine: “I was following Emma Raducanu’s incredible run in Wimbledon and also Naomi Osaka these last few years – it’s been amazing, both of their stories.

“But it hurts when you see what happens and when they don’t feel well. The stress is so great.

“I think a lot has to be down to social media: the first 10 years of my life there was no social media, maybe I had just a website, then the next 10 years social media was everywhere.

“Also, in regards to this, the press situation does need to be reconsidered.

“I think I’m one of the athletes who’s done the most press – ever! And I agree that it’s always the same. Always.

“I think players, the tournaments, journalists, we need to sit down together in a room and go ‘OK, what would work for you and what works for us’.

We need a revolution.

“Or at least an evolution of where we are today. I think we do need to help, coach and mentor the younger generation more.

Kate Middleton shows off tennis skills as she plays with US Open champ Emma Raducanu

“I can’t imagine going through the beginning of my career with social media; I have no clue how I would have handled it. For every 10 nice comments there’s always one negative comment and, of course, that is the one you focus on.

“It’s a horrible situation. Even when I am feeling down I know I need to act a certain way in front of the world’s press.

“We need to remember that tennis players are athletes and professionals, but we are also human too.”

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Osaka withdraws from Indian Wells

Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells to extend her break from tennis.

Osaka has been open about her mental health issues and the challenges she has been dealing with on and off the court this year.

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No official reason has been given for her withdrawal from Indian Wells, which is one of the two last big events on the 2021 calendar along with the season-ending WTA Finals in Mexico.

Osaka has slipped out of the top five in the world this week, dropping to No 8 in the WTA rankings.

Speaking after her shock loss to Leylah Fernandez at the US Open, the 23-year-old said: “This is very hard to articulate. Basically I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. Sorry.

“I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while. How do I go around saying this? I feel like for me recently when I win I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal. I didn’t really want to cry.”

Indian Wells has been rescheduled from its usual spot in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic and is set to feature most of the top players in the world. It will run from October 4 through October 17 and will be at full capacity.

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'She is a billion-dollar girl' – How Raducanu has the world at her feet

Whether winning the US Open is just the start of a long and successful tennis career for Emma Raducanu remains to be seen, but it is clearly the start of a new life for her.

Since her shock win in New York earlier this month, Raducanu, 18, has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Naomi Osaka, Lewis Hamilton and Serena Williams at the Met Gala. She has done a number of media appearances around the world, seen her Instagram followers shoot up to over two million – joining Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Eugenie Bouchard, and Sania Mirza as the only active tennis players to hit this milestone – and this week signed a sponsorship deal with luxury jewellery brand Tiffany & Co.

The endorsement is expected to be the first of many for Raducanu, whose profile should soar even higher over the coming years. Nike, Adidas, Uniqlo, Aston Martin, Chanel and Lacoste are just some of the brands said to be circling. The opportunities are almost endless – and potentially overwhelming.

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Raducanu’s huge sponsorship appeal is partly because of her background. She was born in Canada to a Romanian father and Chinese mum, grew up in England, and made her major breakthrough in New York. She has already tapped into the audience in the Far East by posting a message of her speaking mandarin and thanking fans for their support on Chinese social media platform Weibo. That, and the fact that she was happy to stick around in New York after the US Open and appear on TV shows and attend A-list events as if she was a seasoned pro, served to show her intentions to be a global star.

Her sponsorship deals before the US Open were reportedly just with Nike and Wilson, and amounted to £100,000 a year combined. The endorsement with Tiffany & Co is apparently a seven-figure sum, and Nike and Wilson will likely be very keen to secure her services for the long-term future. That will be just the start, with PR guru Mark Borkowski predicting that Raducanu could be Britain’s first billion-dollar sport star.

“This is the start of something epic,” Borkowski, who has worked with Michael Jackson, Joan Rivers and Led Zeppelin, among others, told The Guardian.

She is a billion-dollar girl, no doubt about it. She is the real deal.

“It’s not just that she plays extraordinary tennis, it’s also her background, her ethnicity, her freedom of spirit. People also love the fact that she is vulnerable, but laughs the pressures away.”

There are other factors that suggest stardom beckons for Raducanu.

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Firstly, she is represented by the IMG talent agency, with the renowned Max Eisenbud said to be managing her affairs. Eisenbud played a big role in turning Maria Sharapova into the top-paid female athlete for more than a decade, and also worked with China’s first-ever Grand Slam winner Li Na. Sharapova burst onto the scene when she won Wimbledon aged 17, but Eisenbud had set the groundwork for her to rise to the top long before that. Winning her first major was the big step needed to become a household name almost overnight – just as with Raducanu – and Eisenbud quickly helped the Russian become one of the world’s most recognised sports figures. But Sharapova also had success on the court; just a year after winning Wimbledon she became world No 1. Will Raducanu also follow up her US Open win with more titles in the next year?

Even if she doesn’t, her trajectory might be helped by the current layout at the top of the WTA Tour.

While the strength in depth in the top 20 – which Raducanu currently sits just outside of – seems to be growing on the court, the global star power is perhaps not as strong as it has been in previous years. Osaka is the obvious exception as the highest-earning sportswoman in the world, having being paid around £40m in endorsements in the last year alone and secured deals with Nike, Beats by Dre and Mastercard, among others. Yet outside of Osaka – who also appeals to audiences around the world due to her mixed background with a Japanese mother and a Haitian-American father – there aren’t many other players who look as though they will attract the same attention as Raducanu.

It was predicted that Iga Swiatek would become one of the faces of women’s tennis after her stunning breakthrough at the French Open in 2020, and she has signed several sponsorship deals to increase her profile. However, even though her form has been solid this year, she cannot command the same global market share as Raducanu. The same could be said for the top five in the world, with Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalenka, Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina and Barbora Krejcikova having not yet expanded their appeal much beyond their home countries. Perhaps the closest rival to Raducanu is 17-year-old Coco Gauff, who could be set to step into the void left by Serena Williams. She has already signed multi-year deals with the likes of New Balance and Italian food company Barilla, who also sponsor Roger Federer, and a Grand Slam win for Gauff would be enormous in the development of her profile.

Another plus for Raducanu is that she is filling a huge gap in the British market. She is the first female British Grand Slam champion since 1977 and the first female British tennis superstar since…? Johanna Konta got to No 4 in the world and has made Grand Slam semi-finals, but her success has not captured the public’s attention anywhere near as much as Raducanu’s runs at New York and Wimbledon did. Before Konta you have to go all the way back to Virginia Wade, Jo Durie and Sue Barker in the 1970’s and 1980’s. British tennis has been crying out for a female superstar in the 21st century.

Whether or not Raducanu overtakes the likes of Swiatek and Osaka on and off the court, she can also learn lessons from both.

Swiatek has spoken about the difficulties she has faced this year as she has tried to balance her newfound fame and business interests with also competing on the WTA Tour and trying to win more titles – “it’s much, much different when you suddenly get success.” Osaka has also found it challenging at times to constantly be in the spotlight and is currently taking an indefinite break from tennis.

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Raducanu had a care-free attitude at the US Open but now she is going to face choices about how much time to commit to off-court interests and also where to invest her time and money. Sponsorship lawyer Andy Korman, who has worked on contracts for a number of top-tier British sports stars, thinks Raducanu is almost uniquely positioned to tap into the young person’s market in Europe, North America and China, and will have “her pick” of who to work with.

“She’s still at the stage of building her own personal brand and people will pay attention to the kind of sponsors she takes on,” Korman told PA. “She has a good chance to pretty much take her pick, and she has the chance of going with brands that she believes in. You define yourself by the company you keep really.

“The kinds of people she gets involved with, she has got an element of personal choice there. This is where the personality marketing comes into it and her agency comes into play.”

While Raducanu may appear to have the world at her feet, there have been warnings too. Tennis coaching legend Nick Bollettieri wants Raducanu to be allowed to “breathe” and “find her way”. Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Scott Lloyd also suggested she might need some space and to have some time away from the spotlight. “It will take some adjustment and she will need some breathing space. There will be bumps in the road, and there will be times next year when she is going to have a target on her back, and she will have to get used to that.”

Not only will Raducanu have to get used to a new status on the WTA Tour, but she will also have to get used to seeing her face on many more billboards and magazines as her stock continues to grow.

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Opinion: No multiple major winners again, but Barty’s 2021 season should be given more respect

If variety is the spice of life, then the WTA Tour is definitely doing things right.

Yet again the season is going to conclude without a repeat Grand Slam champion, just as has happened for the last four years. The last time that a woman won two majors in the same year was Angelique Kerber in 2016. Serena Williams had been doing it regularly before that, but nobody has been able to dominate the tour like the 23-time major winner quite yet.

That doesn’t mean the talent isn’t there though. Quite the opposite. The talent pool is arguably looking stronger than it has for years – and there’s still the chance for Ashleigh Barty to firmly stamp her mark on the 2021 season.

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In the absence of multiple winners in the same season, Barty, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza have all won at least two majors since 2016. There have also been some surprise winners, such as Emma Raducanu’s remarkable win this year, Bianca Andreescu storming through the US Open as a 19-year-old, and Jeļena Ostapenko’s shock French Open success in 2017. And there are other first-time winners like Iga Swiatek and Sofia Kenin who should be competing for more Grand Slams in the very near future.

While the women’s tour is sometimes denigrated for being too unpredictable, especially in comparison to the ‘Big-Three’ dominated ATP Tour, there is actually a consistency that has emerged at the top of the game, and a strength in depth that makes it extremely competitive. That is not to say that there are not more upsets than on the ATP Tour – there still are, and Osaka and Barty will probably be disappointed that they haven’t managed to win multiple Grand Slams in a single season.

Osaka has won four Grand Slams but all have been in different years. In 2019 she was the defending champion at the US Open after winning in Australia earlier in the year, but lost to Belinda Bencic in the fourth round. Then at the following Australian Open lost in the third round before winning the US Open six months later. And this year it was a similar story again as she won in Melbourne and exited early in New York. After losing at the Australian Open in 2020, Osaka said she was still learning how to deal with the status of a champion.

I just feel tight playing here a little bit because of the defending thing. I feel like there are moments where I can handle them and then there are moments like this where I get overwhelmed and I don’t really know what to do in the situation.

While Osaka’s preparation for this year’s US Open dented her chances of victory, Barty looked like one of the most upset-proof top seeds at a major in a while. She went into the tournament on the back of victory at the Western & Southern Open and won her opening two matches in straight sets. But she came unstuck in the third round against Shelby Rogers, who battled back from a double break down in the final set to win. It was no surprise to hear her coach Craig Tyzzer say last week that she is “physically and mentally exhausted” after spending the entire season on the road.

Maybe 2022 will be the year that Osaka or Barty win multiple majors, or maybe another player will rise to the challenge. The three that stand out are: world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka, world No 3 Karolina Pliskova and world No 8 Iga Swiatek.

Osaka, Raducanu, Williams, Biles hit the Met Gala red carpet

Sabalenka has had a strong summer, making her first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon and then following up with another run to the last four at the US Open. She was beaten in three sets on both occasions and said after losing to Leylah Fernandez in New York that the occasion had got to her a bit. “As far as you go in the draw, more expectation you have…Because of the expectations and all this pressure and everything, I was trying to maybe make her move, I was going for closer to the lines. The mistakes were like this sometimes in important moments. Maybe sometimes I have to go back and start from the simple game.”

If Sabalenka’s Grand Slam hopes are looking up, the same could probably be said for Pliskova. She has been a perennial under-achiever at majors considering she has been world No 1 and also spent most of the last five years in the top 10. But after previously only making two semi-finals in her career she reached her first final at Wimbledon and took Barty to three sets. If this is the peak of her career, aged 29, then she has the weapons to win at least one major.

Swiatek has already lifted a Grand Slam trophy after her shock run at the French Open in 2020, and she is the only woman to make the second week at all four majors this year. However, with just one quarter-final appearance in 2021 she is keen to improve.

I am proud. But the best kind of consistency is when you can win, like, five titles a year. So right now I’m looking at the results that Ash [Barty] has, comparing to that, I’m not, like, 100 per cent consistent…I’m like 70 per cent consistent.

‘She looked so comfortable in the biggest moments’ – Wilander in awe of Raducanu

How can any of the top WTA players take the next step and dominate? Perhaps they can’t, perhaps the strength at the top of the game is too deep. Even Raducanu and Fernandez blazing trails in New York did not shock everyone because of the high standards set by the younger players. “I’m not surprised at all,” said Pliskova.

I think some of the young girls, they are playing really good tennis…I think the level is quite high no matter who is in the draw.

Sabalenka offered a similar assessment. “The young generation are working hard, doing their best, using everything they have, doing everything they have. It’s kind of normal, I would say.”

A look at the rankings suggests the depth on the WTA Tour is getting stronger. The top 10 is packed with major winners and players close to making breakthroughs at majors, just outside the top 10 are multiple Slam champions Halep and Angelique Kerber, and not far behind are four of the most exciting young talents in tennis: Coco Gauff, Bianca Andreescu, Raducanu and Fernandez.

With the depth being so strong maybe it is unfair to judge dominance on Grand Slam titles alone, and maybe more respect should be given to Barty’s 2021 season. She has won two more titles (5) than any other player and has the best win percentage of anyone (0.840 per cent) by a good margin. She has also won a major at Wimbledon and may have got another in Paris if she wasn’t injured. With the consistency she has shown over the last few years, Barty seems as well-placed as anyone to lead women’s tennis. If she finishes the season by winning either Indian Wells or the season-ending WTA Finals (the two tournaments she is most expected to play, although there is some doubt over the latter) then that would take her to six titles for the year. Given the quality of those titles (one Grand Slam, two WTA 1000’s, two WTA 500’s so far) it would surely be the best overall season since Williams won three Grand Slams and two WTA 1000 tournaments in 2015. She would also be the first WTA player since Williams in 2014 to win more than five titles in a season.

Whether Barty wins multiple Slams or not in 2022, she would probably sign off for more of the same as this year.

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'I meant exactly what I said' – McEnroe defends Raducanu comments at Wimbledon

John McEnroe has defended his comments about Emma Raducanu withdrawing from Wimbledon, which caused controversy in the summer.

The 18-year-old, who stormed to a phenomenal US Open triumph as a qualifier without dropping a set, saw her incredible run at Wimbledon come to an end in the fourth round after she retired hurt against Ajla Tomljanovic.
Raducanu – who shocked 2020 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova in the second round and world number 45 Sorana Cirstea in the third at SW19 – retired from the match due to having “difficulty breathing”.

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McEnroe said the withdrawal showed “it just got a little bit too much” for Raducanu and he hoped “she’ll learn from this experience”, which she duly did at Flushing Meadows in winning her maiden Grand Slam title.

“I feel bad for Emma, obviously,” tennis legend McEnroe had said on the BBC at the time. “It appears it just got a little bit too much, as is understandable, particularly with what we’ve been talking about this over the last six weeks with Osaka not even here.

“How much can players handle? It makes you look at the guys that have been around and the girls for so long – how well they can handle it. Hopefully she’ll learn from this experience.”

McEnroe has now defended his comments and said that he was surprised by the outrage that some of his views caused following Wimbledon.

“I meant exactly what I said,” McEnroe told CNN. “I tried to relate it in a small way to my experience when I first went to Wimbledon, also at 18.

“There’s a lot of great upsides, but there’s also pressure you put on yourself and expectations that others put on you. I mean that was to me as vanilla as it comes … I was very supportive of her, I thought, at the time.

You know the papers over in England. Sometimes they, like, make a big deal out of, to me, nothing.

“I don’t think you could possibly do it any better than she did it [at the US Open],” McEnroe added. “That’s insane that she’s been able to do this.”

‘She looked so comfortable in the biggest moments’ – Wilander in awe of Raducanu

Talking about four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka, McEnroe continued: “She came out last year, made a big statement at the US Open wearing the mask. It was a great thing.

“Osaka was someone who was very shy and introverted the first time I met her. I think she continues to be that way now.

“Now, all of a sudden, more attention is on her. I hope to God she can handle it because we need her around for another 10 years.”

At the time of McEnroe’s initial comments on Raducanu, Tomljanovic had defended her opponent after some of the reaction to her withdrawal.

“I am actually shocked because Emma must be hurt if she came to the decision to retire,” Tomljanovic said in a sympathetic interview after the match.

“I am really sorry for her, I wish we could have finished it. I am wishing her all the best.”

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