When British teenager Emma Raducanu sensationally won the US Open women’s single tennis title at Flushing Meadows recently, the reaction back in London’s media was – as you would expect – over the top.
Yet you could not blame the media hoo-ha given that the Brits have been desperately waiting since 1977 (Virginia Wade) for a female compatriot to come along and win that elusive grand slam singles title. Given that London is host to Wimbledon the prestigious of the grand slams the UK fans had all but given up on having such a winner from their neck of the woods.
Many in the British media could not hold back their rush to anoint young Raducanu, 19, as the British tennis player they have been waiting for to take over the sport for years to come.
My reaction to that media response was that these trumped-up-wagonists have not taken women tennis seriously over the past 7 years or so. Because if the media sporting football obsessed editors had taken the time to follow the sport they would realise that women’s tennis today is brutally tough, competitive and incredibly unpredictable.
Only weeks ago at the Indian Wells Masters tournament at Virginia, USA – regarded by some as the unofficial 5th grand slam – was won by Spain’s Paula Badosa described in some tennis circles as a rising star.
Think back to the 2019 US Open singles event when then 19 year old Canadian, Bianca Andreescu (seeded 15) defeated Serena Williams in the final when most expected the latter to win a record 24th grand slam title. The competitive nature of women’s tennis has meant that Andreescu has not made another grand slam final since that momentous win.
Ironically us long standing Serena fans had long expected her glide easily pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam single titles and get to 30. But the depth in the quality of the game is such that Serena has been left behind by these younger players.
In 2019 when Serena was defeated in the first week at Wimbledon by then 15 year old compatriot Coco Gauff the media said the victor will soon be world number 1. Gauff may indeed get to that lofty position in due course but she has not made any of the quarter finals of the 5 grand slam tournaments she has played.
The thing is since 2015 women’s top class women’s tennis has turned on its head and has become the most unpredictable and competitive gig in all of individual sports.
Conversely, grand slam men tennis title events still revolves around a handful of players especially Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
From the 1980s to the 2000s the 4 women’s grand slams singles titles (Australian, French, Wimbledon & US) ) each year were won by just a few players.
The 1970s/1980s had Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova virtually sweeping the titles, the 1980s/1990s Steffi Graff won some 20+ titles and from the 2000s onwards the Williams sisters (Serena and Venus) have cleaned up especially Serena.
But since 2015 grand slam single titles have had multiple female winners – Wimbledon has had 5 different winners, French Open 7, US Open 6 and the Australian Open 5.
The women grand slams for that period delivered 16 different winners with the French Open having had 13 different finalists.
In that said period the 27 men’s grand slam singles events had just 7 different winners with Nadal winning 6 and Djokovic grabbing an incredible 13 titles.
Some tennis purist might complain that there is no stand out stars like when Serena, Navrotilova or Graf were in their pomp. But the unpredictable nature of women tennis today is what makes it a more gripping and interesting sport to follow for me these days.
The quality of the matches from the very first round of grand slams and other top tournaments is generally of a high standard. The speed of these female players around the court is just impressive. The power of their ground strokes is relentless and the touches at the net makes for amazing tennis.
Today there is no longer any easy matches from the very first round for the seeded players in these top tier events. Unlike decades ago, it is impossible to predict who will make even the quarter finals of these big tournaments.
Yet the intensity of these matches means there are more injuries and the pressures on their mental well being both on and off the court is being truly tested.
Some tennis stars such as Naomi Osaka (Japan) have had to take an extended break to reboot her energies. But given the quality in depth in the sport there is no guarantee that Osaka can walk straight back in and win multiple grand slam singles titles straight away. Osaka is just one of the very few multiple winners of grand slam women singles title since 2015.
Since winning the US Open Raducanu has found things tricky to even string up a series of wins in minor tournaments. The US Open was her first and only title on the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) circuit.
But knowing the British media they will be expecting Emma to win every tournament she plays. Let us hope she ignores all that media brouhaha. Because we know it doesn’t take much for the UK media to turn on Emma should she falter by the time Wimbledon comes round in June 2022.
But do not be surprised if a British female tennis wins a grand slam singles title within the next 2-3 years and her first name is not Emma.