Emma Raducanu has been urged to seek advice from Maria Sharapova on coping with instant teenage fame before her defence of the US Open title next month. “Maria was able to handle it perfectly,” claimed former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli.
The British No.1 lost in the second round of Wimbledon after struggling with injuries and the pressures of being a Major champion. The world No.11 has also attracted criticism for her number of commercial endorsements.
Sharapova, now 35 and retired, won Wimbledon as a 17-year-old in 2004 and went on to win five Grand Slams and become the richest sportswomen in the world. The two share an agent – Max Eisenbud of IMG.
And 2013 Wimbledon winner Bartoli said: “Because she won so young and with all the contracts and sponsorships she has signed, the pressure she has to face – I cannot start to imagine it. It is so massive. It takes someone so special to handle it. She probably should maybe get some advice from Maria Sharapova, who has been able to do it.
“It took Maria a little bit of time before she got the second one but then she went on to five in total. You have to be kind with yourself. Give yourself a little bit of time. You just need to get those strong results every time, it might not be winning, but quarters, semis, maybe a final.
“Then you will get your second one. If it is too dramatic in terms of change of results – like you win, then you lose in the first or second round – it becomes tricky mentally. You think: ‘Okay, I am not even close’. This is the thing. Once you get closer and you get strong, solid results every time, then you feel like you are there. ‘Okay, I am belonging here, I am in the final four or the final eight’, then I can have another major breakthrough.”
Bartoli added that the Russian was a perfect role model for balancing on and off court demands. “Maria was on the front covers of all the magazines and she had a lot of major deals,” said the French star. “I don’t know exactly how many millions of dollars Emma has been able to sign but looking at the big picture, it looks sort of similar.
“And Maria was able to handle it perfectly. She beat Serena here and then went on to be one of the greatest champions of the game for a lot of years. For me, Maria has been an example of doing that outside of the court but being able to block it so much on the court, it was only about the match, the business and the winning. She was so good at that.
“Obviously Max was Maria’s agent for so long. I think there could be the connection there. Just getting some advice. I mean when you look at the top players, they are constantly looking for some advice, tips from people to help them. Even if it is one or two percent here or there, it makes a massive difference in the end. Maria was able to handle it.”
Bartoli, now 37, retired after her first Grand Slam success because of injuries. “On my side, I wished I could have continued after the Wimbledon win, but unfortunately my shoulder and my body was giving up since the beginning of 2013,” she said. “I was able to with the adrenaline and focus and desire to win my Grand Slam, to block that out for two weeks but then when that was over,
“I had a massive feeling of emptiness. I didn’t have that fire anymore. Once you don’t have that, you cannot handle the pain anymore. If I had been able to win one when I was 22 years old against Venus Williams (Wimbledon 2007), that would have been a different story. So it very much depends when you win your Grand Slam.”