Emma Raducanu faces Sloane Stephens in her first-ever Australian Open match on Tuesday, and ahead of just her third Grand Slam outing Eurosport expert Mats Wilander believes the Briton needs to adopt a “selfish” attitude.
Since winning the US Open as an 18-year-old qualifier without dropping a set last September, Raducanu has suffered three first-round losses as she gets to grips with the WTA Tour.
Expectations were heightened in the UK after she won the nation’s first women’s singles Grand Slam since 1977, while the New York triumph means she is now seeded heading into the Australian Open.
Dylan Alcott - 'The future is definitely bright for wheelchair tennis' - Legends' Voice
Wilander, a former world No 1 and three-time Australian Open champion, believes Raducanu must forget outside pressure and concentrate on her own game ahead of the difficult meeting with 2017 US Open winner Stephens.
“She has something very special. When you win the US Open that way, it’s not luck,” Wilander said on Eurosport’s The Cube.
“She needs to understand this is not about us thinking about her. This is about being selfish, playing for herself and not caring what the UK thinks about her. If she’s going to win multiple Grand Slams, that’s what her mindset [will have to be].”
Raducanu’s results since US Open win (opponents ranking)
- Indian Wells – Lost 6-2 6-4 vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich (100)
- Transylvania Open – Won 4-6 7-5 6-1 vs Polona Hercog (124)
- Transylvania Open – Won 6-3 6-4 vs Ana Bogdan (106)
- Transylvania Open – Lost 6-2 6-1 to Marta Kostyuk (55)
- Linz – Lost 6-1 6-7 7-5 to Xinyu Wang (106)
- Sydney Tennis Classic – Lost 6-0 6-1 to Elena Rybakina (13)
‘As tough a first round as Raducanu could get’
Eurosport tennis expert and 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert also assessed Raducanu’s prospects, admitting the teenager now has a “target on her back”.
- Australian Open order of play, Day 2 - Tsitsipas and Raducanu take centre stage after Djokovic saga
- 'You have to ask a men's player' - Osaka responds to Djokovic questions
- Imperious Barty flattens Tsurenko to advance to second round
Evert said: "There's a lot of pressure and she can't have that much confidence going into this tournament because she hasn't won a lot of tournaments. You just hope when somebody is ranked outside of the top 100 and they win a Grand Slam, you kind of wonder, are they an outlier or are they meant to be winning the US Open? And I just don't know if it happened too early for her, maybe a lot of people would think that, but everybody's gunning for.
Konta previews Murray and Raducanu campaigns at Australian Open
"She's got a target on her back because she won the US Open and she is still young, and she still hasn't fully developed her game. Saying that, she showed so much maturity and so much composure when she won the US Open, I think that will help her a lot, but she plays Sloane Stephens.
"Sloane again won the US Open, she's a Grand Slam winner, and in the first round that's about as tough a first round as Emma could get. Sloane just got married and we don't know how she's going to be playing either.
“We don't know what her schedule has been, what her training has been, did she go on a honeymoon and how much does she play? In saying that it's going to be probably the most interesting first round match."
Stephens has dropped to No 67 in the world and last played in November, while at the US Open she lost in the third round to Angelique Kerber.
Her form is an unknown heading into the match, but Wilander believes the American is capable of beating Raducanu when asked for two reasons why the Brit might lose.
Wilander added: “The reasons why she’s not going to win – one is, I don’t think she has as much confidence. She still has the pressure of being the US Open champion, and hasn’t been on the Tour long enough to understand how to deal with this.
“The second reason is: Sloane Stephens is an unbelievable tennis player when the expectations are on the other players. When she won the US Open, she hadn’t played tennis for like a full year, and suddenly she came out [and won].
“I think Stephens will be tough to beat, but she just got married, I don’t know how much she has trained.”
Stream the 2022 Australian Open live and on-demand on discovery+
'Adapting to clay will not faze Emma' - Konta on Raducanu's chances at French Open
'A positive experience' - Konta evaluates Raducanu's debut campaign at Australian Open
Share this article