The life of a young tennis star is hard to understand for most fans of the sport. Without being there with the completely suffocating nature of the pressure, it is difficult to put ourselves in the shoes of young tennis stars. Among the most interesting names in tennis today is Emma Raducanu, the young UK prodigy who won the US Open at the first time of asking. Since that incredible win, though, Raducanu has been inconsistent to say the least.
Everyone has had their say on the reasons. Pressure, coaching changes, and every reason in-between. For some, though, the belief is that Raducanu enjoyed an incredible tournament and might never live up to the billing ever again. Tennis is littered with one-and-done players who lifted something major, only to fail to ever really repeat the trick.
With another exit from a tournament, this time the Miami Open, those doubts about the young Briton continue to resurface. A 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 loss to Katerina Siniakova was seen by some as a shock. Looking at the records of the two players in recent times, though, paints a rather different picture entirely.
So, for now, the majority of tennis fans will wonder what happens next for the 19-year-old. Despite being a US Open champion, she has won just twice of her seven games this season. For Raducanu, it is another crucial learning moment. However, with the rapid pace of tennis and the arrival of new stars on a regular basis, she could find the limelight switching to those who are currently lifting trophies.
Ashleigh Barty a sign of warning for the future of tennis?
As mentioned above, professional tennis is a gruelling sport. The commitment, the focus, and the talent needed is incredible. For many, even lifting just one ATP/WTA tournament would be enough. For it to be a US Open would be a dream. However, for some, the pressure that it takes to get up and go again is very hard to manage and understand.
Therefore, the recent news that Ashleigh Barty has retired from tennis at the age of 25 should come as a warning to the sport. The intensity, the pressure, and the commitment to a nigh-perpetual schedule is a massive challenge. It might become more common for players to retire earlier in the sport than they have in the past. Why? Because the spotlight, the pressure, and the glare of the media when failure strikes is hard to live with.
For many, reaching a pinnacle – as Barty did – would be enough to call it quits. While many will be keen to see a new generation of stars arriving to take over from the likes of the Williams sisters and the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the pressure might need to be dialled back.
Asking youngsters to go through a solo career in such a high-stakes sport as tennis is a tough ask. To expect them to manage years, even decades, of top-level performance without having a dip is completely unrealistic.
Barty is a warning sign that, for some, the pressure is just not worth putting up with once a great achievement takes place. For fans keen to see Raducanu lifting more titles in the future, it might be worthwhile to keep that in mind.