Is the hype we are placing on next gen tennis players highly inappropriate?

Emma Raducanu with her US Open 2021 trophy (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
Emma Raducanu with her US Open 2021 trophy (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images) /

In recent years, tennis has been blessed with  a  number of young stars making their breaks on their biggest stages, and reaching international stardom.

On the women’side, the likes of Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu, and now recently Emma Raducanu, shot to international stardom by winning US Opens. It is a very interesting (and rather cool) trend that US Open winners tend to gain the most international coverage (compared to any other slams) amongst the wider general public.

All three were splurged all over the front pages of major international newspapers, such as the New York Times, and received a slurry of day-time and late night talk show timeslots.

Make no mistake- these young  athletes should be applauded for making the right decision and taking advantage of all the off-court opportunities that come their way, whether it be financial or brand exposure.

However, it cannot be denied that often the hype  can become obscene, and the pressure debilitating, for these young athletes to match or better their previous accolades.

It often can remind us of a time in life, when everything was just too perfect. That is often when the worst things start to happen. Time and time again, I have seen young tennis players win major tournaments, but then fizzle out in early rounds of 250 level tournaments.

It is why the underdog status is so important in sport. Often athletes (and humans in general) obtain their best results when they are the dark horse. Athletes also succeed when they are humbled, their backs are against the wall, or they lose everything and have to work their way back to get things they took in life the most for granted.

Often we hear expressions such as “pressure is a privilege”- but this expression is often taken out of context way too many times, and applied to every single situation. Almost like pressure can never not be a privilege. Which is completely false, toxic, and the very root reason that most struggle.

There are countless examples of teenage athletes that have had way too much pressure to match historic records from the past. A  very recent example is young Spanish tennis phenom Carlos Alcaraz At this year’s French Open, there was a point where at one stage the 18 year old was given higher odds to win the French Open (by a number of pundits) than 21 times grand slam champion Rafael Nadal, who at that point had only won the French Open thirteen times in the last sixteen years.

Pressure is a privilege- only when one has adapted is able to comfortably handle the pressure at that time. I say this because in my time watching the game, I have seen countless examples of talents that have never eventuated, or young phenoms on the junior circuit who have not been able to translate their success to the next arena- the professional circuit.

No person born in the early 2000s should feel as though they have peaked in life. They still have their best work ahead of them. It is the same story with any next-gen player who wins a 250 title. We are ready to anoint them as future world number 1: with keys to the kingdom of Earth and Mars.

That is not right. In actual fact, that is pretty gross.