Tennis icon Martina Navratilova shuts down nasty label placed on Emma Raducanu

Navratilova shares her thoughts on the criticism and scrutiny Raducanu has faced over the last two and a half years.

by Dzevad Mesic
Tennis icon Martina Navratilova shuts down nasty label placed on Emma Raducanu
© Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Martina Navratilova thinks Emma Raducanu's US Open win turned into "a handicap" and undoubtedly put up "a big burden" on the Briton's back but also highlights that the 21-year-old's historic Grand Slam win was certainly "not a fluke."

When Raducanu became a Grand Slam champion at the 2021 US Open, she did it like no one had ever done before - as a qualifier. At the time of her 2021 US Open win, Raducanu was just 18 and playing in her second Grand Slam main draw - her Slam debut came at Wimbledon two months earlier. 

En route to sealing a historic US Open win, Raducanu won three matches in straight sets before also winning all of her seven main draw matches in two sets. At the time, the Briton was widely tipped to have a great future and do more major things.

But two and a half years later, Raducanu hasn't won any titles since the 2021 US Open - nor has made any WTA Finals - she was just once a semifinalist in late 2022 in Seoul.

Early exits and inconsistent results led to the Briton facing some harsh criticism and scrutiny for her results. Also, for already quite some time, some have been calling the 2021 US Open champion "a one-Slam wonder." 

Emma Raducanu
Emma Raducanu© Getty Images Sport - Francois Nel

Navratilova slams claims that Raducanu's US Open win was a fluke

Navratilova, one of the greatest players in tennis history, doesn't agree that Raducanu's US Open win was "a fluke" because playing that well over three weeks at the 2021 US Open just could not have happened by a coincidence. Instead, Navratilova believes that the pressure became so high on the Briton to the point where it directly impacted her performances and ultimately results. 

Also, Navratilova added that the key for Raducanu's future success is staying healthy after successfully undergoing and recovering from three surgeries. 

"It was amazing when she won but it's become a handicap because the expectations have gone sky-high," Navratilova told Sky Sports.

"It wasn't a fluke because Emma has got that level. It wasn't just she played great tennis and then all of a sudden she can't play, but the pressure that's been on her since then - particularly being a Brit - you can't get away from it.

"It's a big burden to carry, but hopefully she'll get back to it and most of all she needs to get healthy and stay healthy - and, that way, you can build on that.

"It's hard to build any confidence and momentum from winning because you don't stay healthy enough to win. It's a nasty Catch 22 where you can win with confidence but you can't have confidence without winning.

"Hopefully she'll get healthy and stay healthy so we'll see her talent again."

Emma Raducanu
Emma Raducanu© Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman

What Raducanu said about her US Open win last year?

After having surgeries on both wrists and her right ankle, Raducanu told a British magazine in June that "sometimes I wish never won the US Open." 

"That moment on the court, when I was celebrating, I was like, I would literally trade any struggle in the world for this moment," Raducanu told the Sunday Times in mid-2023.

"Since then I've had a lot of setbacks, one after the other. I am resilient, my tolerance is high, but it's not easy. And sometimes I think to myself I wish I'd never won the US Open."

Raducanu's statement drew lots of attention but also brought her empathy from fans as many were pointing to how that admission perfectly showed how tough it was for the Briton to be constantly called out, criticized and scrutinized. 

After playing just five tournaments last year, a healthy Raducanu returned to tennis at the start of the 2024 season in Auckland. While Raducanu went just 2-2 in January during her Auckland and Australian Open runs, she seemed to be in a much better place both mentally and physically. 

Then in February, Raducanu was asked about her statement from 2023 in which she revealed that at times she was regretting her US Open win. Answering the question, Raducanu said she actually regretted that comment and added that she definitely didn't think that way anymore. 

“Yeah, I think when I was saying those things, I hadn’t necessarily had the time to take a step back and reflect. Now in the position that I’m in, I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Raducanu told CNN last month.

“But I think I was so wrapped up and so caught up in everything, in the whirlwind that happened after. And now having come through injury with a different perspective, I’m really grateful that I did so.”

Emma Raducanu
Emma Raducanu© Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman

Meanwhile, Raducanu was scheduled to compete in Miami this week, but she pulled out because of a lower-back injury. 

Martina Navratilova Emma Raducanu