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The peculiarity of Emma Raducanu’s coaching arrangements has been highlighted for the second time in as many days, this time by the world’s best doubles player Joe Salisbury.
Now Salisbury has commented on the time-share arrangement that Raducanu has with Louis Cayer, the savant-like technical coach who normally concentrates on Britain’s doubles specialists.
“Louis at the moment has said the doubles guys are still his priority,” said Salisbury, who hails from Putney in south London, after moving into the second round at Roland Garros with a comfortable straight-sets win. “So whether that changes at all we’ll see.
“It’s a bit of a strange situation that he has got on with Emma at the moment where he’s helping her out but not really her coach,” added Salisbury. “It’s a lot of players to manage and he’s not always going to be able to be at all her practices and matches. I can’t say for her whether she will be happy.”
Cayer has been helping Raducanu rebuild her stroke technique since early April, after a period in which her serve and forehand had slipped back towards bad habits from her junior career.
He is described as her “technical consultant” and could be seen in Madrid earlier this month working through analysis of her matches on his complex “Dartfish” computer system.
But Cayer himself still considers his work with Raducanu to be an extracurricular role, as opposed to the bread and butter of his doubles coaching commitments. He was spotted in her player box in Madrid, but didn’t sit there at all during her two outings at the French Open.
“Louis is great,” said Neal Skupski, another leading British doubles player who is through to the third round in Paris. “He’s been great for me, he’s changed my game quite a bit since I came out of college. I’m sure he’ll try and put his stamp on Emma’s game in some way. And I’m sure he’ll be a success. But, I mean, I don’t know how long this is for.
“He told us at the very start when it happened, the doubles guys will get priority. Normally there’s a priority done on ranking. Joe is No 1 at the moment, so he’ll get the first time for Louis. And then if he’s at nine o’clock, then I’ll try and go at 10 or 11, and then it’ll be the next person in line in the rankings. And then Emma.”
Raducanu is now focusing on the grass after her disappointing 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 loss to Belarus’ Aliaksandra Sasnovich on Wednesday. Despite starting brightly her physical intensity fell away dramatically after the 47-minute first set, and Tim Henman was only one of many observers to suggest that she needs to work on her fitness.
Here, Telegraph Sport identifies four areas where Raducanu has room to improve.
The forehand is the bread-and-butter of every tennis professional and, on Wednesday, Raducanu’s wasn’t good enough to deserve a place in the third round of a major. By the later stages of the second set, she had hit just two winners off this flank, whereas Sasnovich had slammed 15.
It felt at times as if she was caught in two minds: whether to drive the ball flat and aggressively, or to loop it with heavy top-spin in the more traditional clay-court manner. In the end, the result often fell between those two stools, winding up as a slow-moving ball that sat up nicely into her opponent’s strike zone.
The absence of the drop shot from Raducanu’s Parisian repertoire is all the more surprising because she used it cannily during her two victories in Madrid earlier this month. The one time it made an appearance, on set point against Linda Noskova on Monday, it did the job nicely.
But Raducanu didn’t bring it out again, and that put extra pressure on her backhand drive – the one real strength of her tournament – to do all the work. Again, Sasnovich showed the way here, regularly dropping winners with the insouciance of an experienced clay-courter.
Raducanu moved well in the opening set but, as the match wore on, there was a sense that her legs were growing heavy. She normally likes to absorb the pace from a heavy-hitting opponent by squatting down low in the manner favoured by Angelique Kerber or Agnieszka Radwanska – a pair of former Wimbledon finalists who depended on their powerful legs.
But when Sasnovich dialled up the aggression in set two, Raducanu found herself jumping up into the ball instead – a less demanding method physically, and a less effective one practically. As Tim Henman put it on Eurosport: “Emma Raducanu made a good start today but perhaps was not quite able to maintain the levels physically. Her tennis skills are enormous, she just needs to build more of a physical platform and that is not easy to do when you are in the middle of a tournament.”
This comes back to the forehand and Raducanu’s lack of confidence in it right now. As the experienced coach and analyst Craig O’Shannessy pointed out in his “Brain Game Tennis” blog, 55 per cent of her groundstrokes were backhands, whereas the best players – especially on clay – tend to back away slightly so that they can bring their forehands into play more.
There’s a spot just to the left of the centre notch on the baseline that is sometimes known as “the Spanish position”, because of the enormous amount of time that right-handed Spanish dirtballers spend there. Sasnovich used the back-away ploy brilliantly to save break points early in the third set, smacking one devastating forehand from so far out of court that she was virtually in her own backhand tramlines. But Raducanu hardly ever uses this option, and doesn’t seem to have much faith in it when she does.