Emma Raducanu resurgence: Why clay is the Brit's best surface and why she should be considered a dark horse for the French Open

Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier - France v Great Britain
Emma Raducanu is enjoying her career-best form on clay

Emma Raducanu's young career so far has seen its fair share of ups and downs. The British star reached the peak of the summit after her historic US Open title win in 2021, however, she has failed to match her high standards since then. Now, with the 21-year-old fully fit and finding her feet on clay, the expectations on the young shoulder have risen again ahead of the French Open.

Historically, the French Open has been a tough place for the British players. Over the years, Brit stars like Andy Murray and Virginia Wade won multiple Grand Slam titles around the world but could never crack the clay code. However, Emma Raducanu is different as she relishes a battle on clay and her recent performances have made her a dark horse for the French Open title.

Raducanu's playing style has served her well on clay so far. The 21-year-old enjoys longer rallies and covers the court well with her pace. Another essential requirement to succeed on clay courts is the ability to slide and this is where Raducanu thrives. The Brit has a natural ability to slide on clay, which helps her create various angles during points. These factors along with her strong mental strength on court have made her an outside favorite for the French Open.

While many players fail to adjust to the unique demands of the red clay, Raducanu is relishing the challenge. The British star has showcased her ability on clay at the recent Billie Jean King Cup and the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix tournaments, however, her form at the French Open remains a concern.

Emma Raducanu has played at the Roland Garros only once in her career in 2022. The young Brit was eliminated in the second round by Aliaksandra Sasnovich as she threw away a lead to eventually lose 3-6, 6-1, 6-1. Since then, the former US Open champion has been plagued with injuries.

Raducanu underwent surgeries on both her wrists and an ankle in May 2023. The injury lay-off meant that the Brit missed the French Open and Wimbledon last year, but the 21-year-old is fully fit now. With the French Open coming up and Raducanu in fine form, one cannot bet against the young British star to recreate her historic run of the US Open, in Paris.

Emma Raducanu's recent results on clay courts

The Billie Jean King Cup and Porsche Tennis Grand Prix have further proved the theory that clay court might be best suited for Emma Raducanu. The 21-year-old impressed as she guided team Great Britain to qualify for the finals of the Billie Jean King Cup. Raducanu was trailing by a set in both her matches against the French duo of Caroline Garcia and Diane Perry, however, she used her strong mentality to get past the finishing line on both occasions.

Emma Raducanu has since followed up on those results by impressing at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart. The 21-year-old dominated the former World No. 1 Angelique Kerber, on her way to a 6-2, 6-1 victory in the first round before stunning Linda Noskova in the second round by serving her a bagel in a 6-0, 7-5 win. This is the first time that Emma Raducanu has managed to win four matches on a trout since her US Open triumph in 2021, which is a further indication of her growth as a player.

With Raducanu hitting form just in time before the French Open, she might be the best bet to stop Iga Swiatek's dominance in Paris. The World No. 1 has been the player to beat at the Roland Garros in the last four years, having won three titles in that time. Now in 2024, the Polish star will be aiming for three successive French Open titles, a feat only Monica Seles, Justine Henin, Bjorn Borg, and Rafael Nadal have achieved in the past.

Along with Swiatek, Coco Gauff and Aryna Sabalenka will be the favorites for the French Open title. However, Emma Raducanu, currently languishing at World No. 303, cannot be ignored. The Brit has shown in the past that she can handle the pressure of big occasions like a Grand Slam and would fancy her chances of causing an upset of two.

With the British people desperate to celebrate a French Open title again, Emma Raducanu could be their only hope at success this year. If she does manage to do the unthinkable, Raducanu will become the first British player since Sue Barker in 1976, to win the French Open in the Open Era.

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Edited by Shirsh
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