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Emma Raducanu’s Andy Murray decision exemplifies tennis’ battle with logic and emotion

SportsEmma Raducanu's Andy Murray decision exemplifies tennis' battle with logic and emotion


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At the heart of the row over Emma Raducanu’s decision to blow off her Wimbledon mixed doubles date with Andy Murray is an irresistible three-way tug-of-war between emotion, rationality and karma that could only unfold in tennis.

After Raducanu confirmed that she would withdraw from their first-round match, scheduled for Saturday evening, via a Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) statement, Murray’s mother and first ever coach, Judy, ensured that she would forever be the leader of the emotional tug of all this with 11 taps of the keys on social media. She described Raducanu’s decision to break off the engagement with her son on No 1 Court, so ending his glittering Wimbledon career at age 37, as “astonishing”.

Raducanu, who is on her best run of form at a Grand Slam tournament since winning the U.S. Open in 2021, said she awoke with stiffness in her wrist and did not want to risk further injury ahead of her fourth-round match against Lulu Sun, a 23-year-old qualifier from New Zealand. They are due to play this afternoon, Sunday, on Centre Court.

The decision came just days after Raducanu talked about needing only seconds to accept Murray’s invitation to team up here. About how she had watched him play in the 2012 Olympics at Wimbledon with Laura Robson, winning silver medals, and dreamed that one day she might be able to partner him.

Murray’s camp emphasized on Saturday that he had been ready to play, and that there was no issue with his recently-operated-on back, which had forced him out of the men’s singles draw at his final Wimbledon.

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On one hand, it’s easy to understand Judy Murray’s emotional reaction to Raducanu’s decision. Her son had offered Raducanu, who has struggled with injuries and battled questions about her commitment to the sport the past two years, a chance to share some of the ethereal light from his career.

His invitation also served notice to a British sporting public that has been running out of patience with Raducanu’s trajectory. Their frustration is born to a certain extent of false perceptions. Injuries — requiring operations on both wrists, the site of her current ailment, last summer — have derailed her career for over a year; winning a U.S. Open title at 18 as a qualifier is abnormal as much as it is remarkable.

Raducanu has not yet been able to prove that she can be just a normal tennis player, and a very good one at that, because she hasn’t really had the opportunity, and given how prone she appears to injury, she is likely one of those players who may need to put in a lot of training work outside tournaments to stay as healthy as possible and reach her full potential.


Judy Murray attended her son’s Centre Court farewell match earlier this week (Clive Brunskill / Getty Images)

The irony of all this is that when Murray was Raducanu’s age, he didn’t have the best reputation either.

In his case, much of the tennis-viewing populace took a sideways view of his often cranky on-court demeanor. It wasn’t how a rising force in a gentleman’s game was supposed to act in the era of Roger Federer, its greatest gentleman of all — once he figured out how to stop breaking rackets.

For Judy Murray to toss a bit of fuel on the fire that Raducanu had begun working hard to snuff out suggested a singular vision about the priorities of the fortnight, which for the players remaining in the singles draws, is to win titles rather than provide a stage for valedictories.

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The best way for Raducanu to prove her potential would be a deep run at Wimbledon off the back of the roughest period of her career.

Tiring herself into a possible defeat for the sake of a sporting occasion that is largely meaningless in the grand scheme of that career would not be a good way to do it.

Anyone mapping out a rational plan to best prepare Raducanu for a match on a Sunday would not put her on a tennis court late on the previous day for one that, while emotional, would likely have also had the air of an exhibition. They would put her on a couch, maybe with an ice pack on her stiff wrist, rather than a racket in her hand.

Playing a symbolic match with Murray in front of over 12,000 screaming fans in the evening is a good route to bad sleep and a body pumped full of adrenaline until the small hours of the morning, once you factor in a post-match treatment, eating, getting to bed and winding down.


Raducanu is looking to regain her consistency after a tough time with injuries (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

That’s not a rational plan for success during your best run at a Grand Slam tournament since you won one almost three years before.

But tennis is not a rational sport, it’s an emotional one filled with unique codes of etiquette that players are often loathe to mess with, lest they anger the sport’s karma gods. Blowing off the greatest tennis legend in your country’s tennis history in his final Wimbledon, during a week that has basically been all about celebrating him, when you are only in the singles thanks to a wild card, would seem like a good way to anger them — or at least Judy Murray, which has never been good etiquette.

Walking onto a court with that legend, the essence of good Wimbledon karma, maybe picking up a tip or two about what it takes to win in this place. That would seem like a good way to get the game’s mystical forces on your side.

Raducanu has made a decision that she thinks is right and is best for her tennis at this year’s Wimbledon.

So do those karma gods really exist? Maybe only if you believe they do.

(Top photo: Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)



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