Top players are recognising the value of playing doubles and Emma Raducanu has decided to team up with Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati this coming week to get extra match play.
For our careers to have crossed like this, I’m fortunate to be able to play her. Whatever happens, it will be an incredible experience that I’ll surely remember for the rest of my life. It will be an exciting match, I’m looking forward to it. It will be an amazing opportunity to play the best tennis player of all time. This will probably be my last opportunity. Emma Raducanu
The World No 10 has her work cut out for her in Cincinnati, having drawn Serena Williams in the 1st-round of the singles competition.
This opening match, which was scheduled for Monday, has been put back until Tuesday, with organisers stating this was ‘on account of a number of factors relating to scheduling’.
Sports presenter Marcus Buckland, who works for Amazon Prime, however, wrote on Twitter that an injury concern for Williams prompted the schedule change, but this has not been confirmed by official sources.
News of the rescheduling, though, has been met with anger by scores of fans who purchased tickets for Monday’s evening match, which was the pick of the first round at the WTA 1000 hard court event in Ohio, with many taking to social media to vent their frustration.
Williams is a two-time champion at the Western & Southern Open, having won back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014, while she was also a runner-up in 2012.
The American had already reached the World No 1 ranking when Raducanu was born in November 2002, and the 19-year-old British No 1 has spoken of her excitement ahead of sharing a court with the legend.
“For our careers to have crossed like this, I’m fortunate to be able to play her,” Raducanu said ahead of her Cincinnati debut. “Whatever happens, it will be an incredible experience that I’ll surely remember for the rest of my life.
“It will be an exciting match, I’m looking forward to it. It will be an amazing opportunity to play the best tennis player of all time. This will probably be my last opportunity.”
With 40-year-old Williams having signalled her plans to ‘evolve away from tennis’ at some point after the US Open, this is likely to be the first and, potentially, last meeting between the pair.
“Expectations, I don’t really know, I don’t really care,” Raducanu added. “I just want to go out there and, one, enjoy the match that I’m going to play, whenever I do play it.
“It’s a great gift to play the best on her way out from the sport. So I’m just looking forward to that.”
Williams is one of the greatest players in tennis history and has left a major mark in the game, while Raducanu became a Grand Slam champion at the age of 18, and is considered a player with the talent to potentially carve out an equally big career.
The match between Serena Williams and Emma Raducanu has been postponed from Monday to Tuesday, infuriating fans in Cincinnati
© Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Raducanu entered the doubles at last week’s Citi Open in Washington, where she paired up with Denmark’s Clara Tauson, but they lost to Lucie Hradecka & Monica Niculescu in the 1st-round.
The Brit has been spotted training with Rybakina in Cincinnati and, no doubt, the Bromley teenager will be relishing every opportunity she gets on the match court after her early exit in Toronto, falling to last year’s champion Camila Giorgi in the first round.
The 19-year-old said she was ‘straight back out on court’ after her straight-set defeat to the Italian, saying she ‘didn’t take any time to reflect or mourn’ the loss.
Raducanu, the reigning US Open champion, now can get some extra matches under her belt ahead of her upcoming title defence in New York, as she will be able to learn from the 23-time Grand Slam champion on the opposite side of the singles court before teaming up with 23-year-old Rybakina to pick up some tips for Flushing Meadows.
The Grand Slam-winning duo will have a tough test on their hands in the opening round, though, drawing Sania Mirza & Hradecka.
Mirza is a doubles specialist who rose to World No 1 and won 6 Grand Slam titles across women’s and mixed doubles, while the Czech also has 2 majors as well as 2 Olympic medals to her name.
Elena Rybakina, who won Wimbledon last month, is teaming up with Emma Raducanu to play in the Cincinnati doubles event
© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Cincinnati is the US Open champion’s last opportunity to get some more matches under her belt before she faces the monumental challenge of defending a Grand Slam title for the first time in her career.
The British No 1 has had her mixed fortunes since her Flushing Meadows triumph last year, when she won the US Open as a qualifier, and of the 16 tournaments she has played since her extraordinary win, she has been knocked out by a lower-ranked player 14 times.
Raducanu, however, has cut a defiant figure off the court, claiming she is unfazed by the prospect of losing the 2,000 ranking points she accrued following her US Open win last year.
This week Raducanu is playing under the guidance of coach Dimitry Tursunov, who previously worked with Anette Kontaveit and Aryna Sabalenka.
The two are currently working together on a trial basis and there is no suggestion that it could become a permanent arrangement in the future.