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Emma Raducanu rallying after US Open title led her to ‘rock bottom’

“If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere”, goes the old lyric. Only it turns out that making it through constantly being splashed across the British tabloids might be even tougher, especially when you’re a homegrown teenage female tennis darling thrust from high school and relative obscurity to U.S. Open champion in a New York minute.

Emma Raducanu’s performance in an unexpected run to the women’s singles title in Flushing Meadows 12 months ago is the kind of magic usually reserved for Hollywood big screens, only it became reality. And an untenable one at that for the now 19-year-old.

Emma Raducanu practices ahead of this year's U.S. Open.
Emma Raducanu practices ahead of this year’s U.S. Open.
Getty Images
Emma Raducanu meets with the media ahead of this year's U.S. Open.
Emma Raducanu meets with the media ahead of this year’s U.S. Open.
Getty Images

Consider, at the start of last year Raducanu was ranked No. 355 in the world. By July, she became the youngest woman to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon. In September, she capped a three-week run that included qualifying into the main draw, becoming the first British woman to reach a U.S. Open final since Virginia Wade in 1968 and, in beating fellow teen Leyla Fernandez in straight sets, making history as the first qualifier, male or female, to win a Grand Slam title in the Open Era.

Afterward, there were congratulatory messages from Queen Elizabeth II and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, among others.

In between trips to the All England Club and Arthur Ashe Stadium, she graduated from secondary school and with high marks.

“I just think with the tabloids in England it’s brutal,” Chris Evert said of Raducanu this summer. “I mean, they camp out at your doorstep if you’re a superstar.”

Long before Raducanu hit it big in the Big Apple, she was smart, grounded and ambitious, according to those who know her best. Her success put her in tennis’ spotlight on the game’s biggest stage. But her play, age, charm, looks, and intelligence helped her transcend the sport.

But not even the finest schooling in Britain would have prepared her for what was to come.

Deals from luxury brands Tiffany & Co., Dior and Porsche, among others, poured in. Expectations soared. But not all attention was good. Last December, Amrit Magar, a former Amazon delivery driver, stalked Raducanu at her London home, where on several occasions he left notes, flowers and Christmas decorations and, on one particular mission, stole one of her father’s shoes as a souvenir.

The ordeal left Raducanu “creeped out” and scared to be home alone. Magar was sentenced in February to community service and a five-year restraining order.

Then there is the matter of her tennis.

Emma Raducanu became the first qualifier in the Open era to win a Grand Slam at last year's U.S. Open.
Emma Raducanu became the first qualifier in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam at last year’s U.S. Open.

This year, Raducanu is just 13-15 in 15 tournaments. Only twice has she made it as far as the quarterfinals, in Germany and at last month’s Citi Open in Washington. In the year’s first three Grand Slams, she didn’t get past the second round.

The critics soon came calling. Among them was former world No. 1 Kim Clijsters, who referred to Raducanu as a “princess.” It didn’t help that the teen has already burned through a few coaches in her young career and recently hired Russian Dmitry Tursunov, a move that drew the ire of some in the British government given Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine.

All of it has been admittedly difficult to cope with for Raducanu, but she’s at least trying to figure it out.

“I think that it took me a while, but right now I most enjoy the challenge of continuously coming back and getting back up,” she told The Post earlier this month. “Getting yourself out of rock bottom, really, a lot of times repetitively, I think it’s a fun challenge and I think I have twisted my perception of it.

Emma Raducanu at the world premiere of "No Time to Die" at the Royal Albert Hall in London after winning last year's U.S. Open.
Emma Raducanu at the world premiere of “No Time to Die” at the Royal Albert Hall in London after winning last year’s U.S. Open.
Getty Images for EON Productions

“I’m not viewing it as a negative thing anymore. I’m just seeing, OK, like the cards are not great right now, but what can I do to turn it around? Then the reward that you feel after a win, knowing that you have come through that, it means a lot more.”

Yet during her Friday practice session in Flushing she broke down in tears at one point, appearing to battle a wrist issue.

There have been at least some bright spots along the way, particularly of late.

Last week in Cincinnati, she dusted Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, losing just six games between the two matches. In Washington, she grinded out a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) win over Camilo Osorio on a brutally hot day during which she was plagued by blisters on her right hand.

Raducanu appeared to be dealing with a wrist issue during Friday's practice at the U.S. Open.
Raducanu appeared to be dealing with a wrist issue during Friday’s practice at the U.S. Open.
Getty Images

Still, the results otherwise have been wildly underwhelming.

Part of Raducanu’s struggles can be attributed to the difficulty of maintaining the level of play she displayed rampaging through New York. The strengths of her game — serving and returns, intensity, movement and coming through under pressure — have also been inconsistent at best.

“Watching my matches at the U.S. Open, there were times for sure that I was coming out with some outrageous shots,” she said. “Sometimes in your career you feel like everything is automatic, you can go for whatever shot you want and it’s going to land. Those weeks don’t come by very often. You might have one or two a year. For me, I mean, I was lucky that I had three pretty much when it mattered really.”

To that point, it’s been almost a decade since a woman successfully defended her singles title at the U.S. Open, with Serena Williams that last to do so in 2014. Since then, six different women have won the title.

But there is one area of Raducanu’s game that seems to have come around: navigating that alley between her ears.

“I think mentally I’m really proud of how I’m doing right now,” she said. “I feel wiser now compared to just after the U.S. Open and the beginning of this year, because I think that no matter what I said, I probably did have certain expectations of myself that were probably a bit twisted. And now I genuinely just accept it.

“I don’t think I was expecting to play U.S. Open tennis every single week, because I knew [that] I was so zoned out, that I was playing really, really well, some of my best tennis. But I’d say even though maybe in the beginning of the year I was saying, look, doesn’t matter, no pressure. I think that I didn’t necessarily buy into it as much as I probably do now.”

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