Raducanu courts controversy over Russian coach

-Ikenna Okafor

Emma Raducanu has risked controversy by reportedly choosing to work with a Russian coach as she prepares to defend her US Open title in New York next month. According to reports, the British No 1 has teamed up with Dmitry Tursunov, who competed for Russia in the Davis Cup and once reached No 20 in the world, for the forthcoming series of North American events.

In a move that would risk undermining Government sanctions against the pariah state, Raducanu’s camp was said to have confirmed she had linked up with Tursunov ahead of next week’s Citi Open in Washington DC.

Moscow-born Tursunov, 39, retired in 2017 but has enjoyed some notable successes with female players, including Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit, whom he took into the world’s top five before their partnership ended after this year’s French Open.

Raducanu has not employed a full-time coach since she split with Torben Beltz in April. Instead, she has opted to work with a range of figures, such as doubles specialist Louis Cayer, Iain Bates and Jane O’Donoghue. She had ditched the coach who took her to her fairytale grand-slam success in New York, Andrew Richardson, shortly after her victory in Flushing Meadows, a decision which was criticised by the likes of John McEnroe. Raducanu, 19, has struggled to live up to the sky-high standards she set in New York. She has not gone beyond the second round at any of the grand slams she has played since winning the US Open, and while she is still ranked No 10 in the world, that is likely to drop rapidly in the coming weeks. She has also been hampered by a series of niggling injuries – including blisters and a side strain – as she adjusts to the rigours of life on the WTA Tour.Hiring Tursunov – which The Mail said had been confirmed to them by Raducanu’s management – is also likely to lead to questions given the international backlash to Russia following President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian and Belarusian players were banned from Wimbledon this summer amid pressure from the Government to stop Vladimir Putin’s regime being able to exploit Russian success there, although the sanction was undermined when Moscow-born Elena Rybakina – who switched allegiance to Kazakhstan in 2018 – won the ladies’ singles title.

There is no obstacle to Russians competing or coaching at events in the United States, including at the US Open, and it was unclear how ministers and the All England Club would respond to the prospect of Tursunov coaching Britain’s new tennis queen.

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