Tim Henman has urged patience with Emma Raducanu after she won just one game in her opening match of the 2022 season.
British No. 1 Raducanu was swept aside by Elena Rybakina in the first round of the Sydney International on Tuesday.
Since winning the US Open in stunning fashion in September, Raducanu has won two matches and lost four. She has also hired a new coach, Torben Beltz, and had the start to her season disrupted after testing positive for Covid-19.
'I’ve done pretty well compared to most teenagers' - Raducanu reveals focus on 'bigger picture'
Henman says Raducanu is playing “catch-up” this month but is not “any way concerned as to where she's at right now”.
“She had a tough end to last year, she's had Covid, she had to quarantine for 10 days, then when she came out she wasn't really able to get started with training,” former British No. 1 Henman told Eurosport.
“Then she flies to Australia, the jet lag, and the practice and she's just trying to build from that. I think it's important that everyone manages expectation, it's a long year, she's got a lot of great opportunities, and form’s temporary, class is permanent.
She’s just trying to build, get more and more matches under her belt. We've seen what she's capable of, so just need to stay patient keep working hard and the good results will follow.
This season will be Raducanu’s first full year on the WTA Tour and in Sydney she was playing in just the eighth WTA-level main draw of her career.
She said after defeat to Rybakina that one of her goals for the year is “not to get too down or too high” and to try and “keep a steady progress”.
Henman thinks Raducanu could still have a lot of developing to do over the next two years.
“The reality is she's so new to all of this, and it is a steep learning curve.
“I get asked all the time how good she's going to be and she is a fantastic player, an enormous talent, a great athlete who's got an amazing mindset, but I always think that the time to judge these young players is when they played every tournament twice.
“And you think in the context of Emma, she's never played the French Open. So she will have played the French Open for a second time in 2023. That's the time frame of really understanding how good she can and will be.
Emma Raducanu with coach Torben Beltz
Image credit: Getty Images
"I reflect on some of the other players like when you look at Coco Gauff or Jannik Sinner, it takes time, they're enormous talents but you've got to be able to let them develop.
“When you see someone like Sinner, you see how well he played at the Tour Finals, he’s knocking on the door of the top 10, establishing himself, now we can see where he's at. Emma's played seven or eight tournaments in her professional career, she just needs a little bit of time.
“She's slightly doing it back to front. She’s played in two Slams, and she won one of them. It's crazy how quickly it's all happened. There'll be lots of people who will be impatient and expecting things to turn and change overnight, but I'm not one of them.”
Raducanu will be among the top 20 seeds when the draw for the Australian Open is made on Thursday.
The British No. 1 will have new coach Beltz in her box for the first time at a Grand Slam, having parted ways with former coach Andrew Richardson after winning the US Open.
Henman does not expect Beltz, who has previously coached former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber, and Donna Vekic, to have made any major alterations to Raducanu’s game over the winter.
“She's just really trying to get out there and build her fitness and build her game on the practice court. They've had so little time really to actually look at different areas.
“This is building the foundation for this year and many more years to come. I think Torben is a great addition as part of the team. He's massively experienced and I'm sure he can add value moving forward.”
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