For most tennis players, preseason is a rather routine affair involving reps in the gym, daily double sessions on court, and anything else that can get them prepared for 2023.
For Emma Raducanu, it also included a visit to Windsor Castle to receive an MBE from King Charles.
“To get my MBE and receive it from His Majesty the King, that’s pretty insane, I’m never going to forget that,” Raducanu told wtatennis.com in Abu Dhabi, where in December, she took part in an exhibition match against Ons Jabeur at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
“But also I went straight from Windsor Castle to the National Tennis Centre, it was pretty insane. Like 10:00 a.m. I was in a full Dior gown with heels at Windsor Castle and then I changed in the car on the way to the National Tennis Centre.
“It was like, I genuinely feel like Hannah Montana, that is how I feel. If I were to describe myself, I’d say I’m Hannah Montana.”
That feeling of leading a double life like the fictional Disney Channel character did not last long though as Raducanu, 20, has been putting in the hard yards for nearly two-and-a-half months now, gearing up for the new season. On Tuesday, she kicked off her 2023 season with a win, fighting off 17-year-old Czech phenom Linda Fruhvirtova to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the first round of the ASB Classic in Adelaide.
The former US Open champion pulled the plug on her 2022 campaign in early October with a wrist injury. She took 10 days off to spend time with family and friends before commencing a two-month block of fitness training, without touching a racquet.
“I started hitting quite late,” she said. “I did two months of physical, like gym work. Tennis I started hitting properly again [on December 9], so it was pretty soon, and I started playing points like literally [a few days later.]
“Quite early days on the tennis front, but I think it’s positive how I was able to put out a decent level against Ons after not having played much at all. I think that’s pretty positive. And physically just trying to work on a better base and foundation for next year so hopefully I can be more robust and last longer and be able to play a full calendar.”
Raducanu’s top priority for 2023 is staying healthy and building up her fitness and conditioning to handle the rigors of the tour.
She has been working with fitness guru Jez Green, who previously spent several years in Andy Murray’s camp.
“Jez is really good, he’s obviously so experienced, he’s worked with some of the top players, he’s been there through the journey with a lot of players who were young and then developed into top, top pros,” Raducanu said.
“It’s amazing to have him in my corner and helping me out right now. We’ve just been focusing on strength, cardio and just improving all round.”
Spending two full months in the gym without stepping on a tennis court must not have been an easy task, but Raducanu knew she couldn’t stay idle while recovering from her wrist problem.
“In the beginning because it’s new and because you’ve been playing tennis all year, you’re quite pumped and motivated to get in the gym so you can do two sessions a day easy and bosh it out like no problem,” she said.
“You can even get yourself motivated for the cardio sessions. But it then becomes after a long period of time to just be in the gym it can become a bit like mundane and you need to try and get yourself through it.
“That’s when it would have been better to start introducing the tennis earlier, but I just couldn’t because of my injury. That’s why you need strong discipline and will power and also good people.”
Can she already feel the fitness gains she has made during practice sessions on court?
“I think right now because I’m still trying to find my timing and groove and my tennis, it’s a bit early to tell,” she said. “But once I settle into that I think the physical side will definitely have made a difference because there’s no way it can’t have.”
“But I’m also not ignorant in thinking two months is going to solve my entire physical condition, it’s going to take more time, over a year or two to redevelop.”
Injury-wise, Raducanu is happy to report that she is now in the clear. She flew from Abu Dhabi to Doha to attend the World Cup final then jetted off to Singapore to resume her training. Raducanu will kick off her 2023 season in Auckland before heading to Melbourne for the Australian Open.
On the coaching front, the former world No.10 is working with Sebastian Sachs, who was previously coaching Belinda Bencic, on a trial basis until the end of the month.
Raducanu made history in 2021 when she became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title.
2022 was her first full year on tour and she hopes to take the lessons learned from the season gone by into 2023.
“I definitely found it very hectic, how intense the tour was, and full on,” she said.
“A lot of the time you don’t feel ready for the match or the tournament and you still have to keep going. It’s just nonstop, there’s no real breaks in it. I found that hard to keep going. As every tournament was taking a little bit more out of my body, one thing I struggled with was dealing with injuries.
“So for 2023 my goal is to stay healthy for longer. I’m looking forward to working hard because I’ve got a better idea of what to expect now. So I’ll be less like a deer in the headlights.”
Besides staying healthy, Raducanu has a couple of more targets in mind for next season.
“For a results goal I’d say it’s to win a title, and three I’d say is to be playing fearless tennis,” she said. “Just not thinking about consequences. Just going for it.
"That’s my goal for this year.”