Emma Raducanu could face a rush to be ready for this year’s US Open and may turn her attention to next season in order to protect her body, world renowned sports doctor Ralph Rogers has suggested.
The British No 1 was ruled out of the French Open and Wimbledon this week after announcing she had undergone minor surgery on both hands and her ankle.
It marks the latest setback amid a torrid time with injuries since a breakout 2021 campaign in which she reached the fourth round on her main draw debut at the All England Club before marching to US Open glory as the first British woman to win a Grand Slam singles title since Virginia Wade in 1977.
The 2023 US Open is due to get under way on Monday August 28, making for something of a swift turnaround as Raducanu seeks to limit the prospect of further injury down the line.
“May, June, July, August; yeah it could be (too soon) because it’s not only that you’re fit enough to play, you have to be match fit,” Dr Rogers – a consultant in regenerative orthopaedics and sports medicine, former Chelsea FC team doctor and current medical adviser to the NBA – told Sky Sports.
“You have to go through the rigours, you have to be able to spend three hours on the court.
“She’s a heck of a prospect, I love watching her play, but we have to give her chance to heal and maybe look towards next season.”
Raducanu’s progress since her success at Flushing Meadows has been marred by a multitude of injury problems, leading Dr Rogers to question whether there is an ‘underlying’ issue that may need to be explored during her recovery period.
“It’s reported she had surgeries to her right and left hand and also had back injuries she’s had to deal with, also ankle injuries, so there’s a whole biomechanical situation that has to be addressed,” Dr Rogers added.
“It’s not just a wrist injury, there’s a whole biomechanical rehabilitation for her to come back. I don’t know what her status is in terms of biomechanics of her overall strength.
“The way she’s broken down as it would appear in the media, there seems to be maybe an underlying fundamental issue with strength that has to be addressed.
“That’s totally up to her physiotherapist and trainer, I don’t like to speculate too much as to what her condition is because she’s not my patient and I could be wrong.”
Dr Rogers cites the immediacy of Raducanu’s ascent as a potential contributing factor, with the 20-year-old having still been studying for her A-Levels during 2021 when she won the US Open before embarking on her first full season on the WTA Tour in 2022 while shouldering the high expectations customary to a Grand Slam champion.
“It’s most likely to do with a great deal of load she’s put through her body having increased her load after the US Open, and she’s just broken down and this is exactly the type of thing that happens.
“It’s difficult for me to speculate what surgery she has had and why she’s had it, but after surgeries there is a time of healing and you take anything from five or seven days just as a healing period and then you go into a range of movement, strength, from strength you go into physiotherapy and there’s the sport specific training like getting back to tennis,” he explained.
“This is in her hands so the comeback is going to be delicate because the overuse and rigours of professional tennis, it’s not like she’s going out like a weekend warrior and playing, this is anywhere from six to eight hours a day, five/six days a week of playing tennis.
He has projected a “staged approach” to her rehabilitation in light of the number of injury problems she has faced.
“There has to be a complete healing process or, again, due to the load she can re-injure herself,” he continued.
“It’s rest, gradual increase in load, there’s the range of movement, there’s the strength, even depending on the injury there’s proprioception which is joints awareness and space, and then you get to the sport specific rehabilitation or training in order to get back on the court.
“Even then once you get back on the tennis court there’s a gradual increase in load, because if you load a joint or injury too quickly you can again re-injure yourself.”
With her withdrawal from the Madrid Open Raducanu is expected to fall out of the WTA’s top 100 rankings.
She admitted in a statement on social media that she has attempted to play through the pain while chiselling her training schedule in an effort to reduce further punishment since the back end of last season, eventually arriving at a decision to grant herself an extended healing process.
“We’ve seen tonnes of athletes come back from injuries even better than before,” explained Dr Rogers. “The whole idea is to not come back too quickly, what we know about injury and especially surgery is you develop scar tissue, it’s how that scar tissue is managed.
“Scar tissue doesn’t function like normal tissue, if people come back too quickly they can break down again and there’s a whole science behind how that’s managed.
“She is one of the greatest prospects right now in British tennis, we just need to give her time because she is very young.
“I’m sure she will come back, she came on the scene so quickly we expect so much of her and that’s a little bit of a pity, I’m sure there’s a great deal of pressure to come back quickly but we should give her time to come back.”
What injuries has Emma Raducanu had?
July 2021: Raducanu withdraws from her fourth-round match against Ajla Tomljanovic at Wimbledon due to breathing difficulties.
January 2022: She suffers with blisters on her dominant right hand as she suffers a second-round defeat to Danka Kovinic at the Australian Open.
February 2022: Raducanu fails to overcome cramping in her leg and fatigue at the Abierto Zapopan in Guadalajara.
May 2022: A back injury puts pay to her hopes at the Italian Open in Rome.
June 2022: A pain in her side left her with no choice but to retire from the first round of the Nottingham Open.
September 2022: After recording her best run since winning the 2021 US Open, Raducanu retired in the third set of the Korea Open semi-final against Jelena Ostapenko.
October 2022: A wrist injury at the Transylvania Open brought her 2022 season to an end.
January 2023: Raducanu walked off in tears after rolling her ankle against Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia in Auckland.
February 2023: The 20-year-old was forced to withdraw from the ATX Open in Austin after suffering with tonsillitis.
April 2023: Raducanu cited a right-hand injury for her withdrawal from the Madrid Open meaning she will drop out of the elite 100 when the rankings are updated on Monday.
May 2023: Raducanu confirmed she underwent surgery on both hands and her ankle, ruling her out of the French Open and Wimbledon