Emma Raducanu returns to her roots to play in Romania for the first time in her career…but is still without a coach and will have to play behind closed doors due to surge in COVID cases
Emma Raducanu received a warm welcome yesterday when she walked out on court for the first time in the land of her father’s birth.
Yet she did so again without a coach in attendance, as the man with whom she has been having trial sessions, Spaniard Esteban Carril, has not made the journey to the Transylvanian Open.
The US Open champion spent several days working with Jo Konta’s former mentor in London last week.
Emma Raducanu will play in the first round of the Transylvanian Open in Romania this week
The British tennis star’s father, Ian, was born in Bucharest, the capital of Romania
However, he still has pre-existing commitments through his Lawn Tennis Association agreement to work with GB player Katie Swan, and was unable to extricate himself at relatively short notice.
The trial work is likely to resume next month, but she does have with her this time physio Will Herbert, who was not present in Indian Wells at her first post-New York tournament.
Her agent Chris Heliar and Bucharest-born father Ian are also in attendance here.
At what is a relatively strong ‘250’ level event Raducanu was last night drawn against World No 123 Polona Hercog of Slovenia and could face Simona Halep, Romania’s biggest sports star, in the semi-finals.
Raducanu’s triumph at the US Open last month propelled into the top-25 in the world rankings
Raducanu arrived late on Friday night, and when qualifying matches ended prematurely yesterday organisers quickly arranged for her to have a hit on one of the main courts at the impressive BT Arena.
At least 200 people gathered to watch her practice for a businesslike hour against Romanian player Gabriele Ruse, with her father among those looking on.
While this was a bonus for the event it has hit major problems that could very much deflate the occasion when the main draw gets going.
Romania is currently suffering from a spiralling rate of Covid cases, the highest in Europe, and late on Friday night the government issued a decree banning crowds from sports events as part of a package of measures.
The 22-year-old was eliminated at the first hurdle at Indian Wells earlier this month
Raducanu lost in straight sets to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the first round of the WTA event
Cultural events will, though, be allowed 30 percent attendance indoors.
The tournament had already agreed to cut down crowds to 25 percent of its 9,000 capacity in an area of the country where vaccinations are highest.
‘It was a big shock and unexpected because we were already prepared to fit in with requirements to make it safe,’ said Tournament Director Patrick Ciorcila.
Raducanu has been working with Jo Konta’s former mentor Esteban Carril (right)
‘We are still pushing them to reconsider and allow in people who have been vaccinated and we have written a letter to the Prime Minister.’
While it was doubtful that Raducanu’s grandmother would make what is an arduous trip from her home in Bucharest the restrictions make it even less likely.
Ciorcila said he was still delighted to have the new US Open champion playing alongside 2019 Wimbledon winner Halep.
World No 123 Polona Hercog of Slovenia will be Raducanu’s opponent in the first round
‘Although she has visited Romania many times this is Emma and her father’s first visit to Cluj and they said they are keen to look around,’ said Ciorcila.
‘There is huge interest in her here because of her Romanian connections.
‘It was Emma who reached out to us saying she would like to play and so when I received that email I was very happy.’