Emma Raducanu's Andy Murray decision: a tennis battle between logic and emotion

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At the heart of the row over Emma Raducanu's decision to cancel her Wimbledon mixed doubles date with Andy Murray is an irresistible triangle of emotion, rationality and karma that could only occur in tennis.

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

Raducanu, who is enjoying her best Grand Slam form since winning the 2021 US Open, said she woke up 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 play this afternoon, Sunday, on Centre Court.

The decision came just days after Raducanu said she took seconds to accept Murray's invitation to work together here, talking about how she had watched him play at the 2012 Wimbledon Olympics with Laura Robson, where they won silver medals, and dreamed she could work with him one day.

Murray's team insisted on Saturday that he was ready to play and that there were no problems with his recently undergone back surgery that would have prevented him from competing in the men's singles 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 had struggled with injuries and questions about her commitment to the sport over the past two years, a chance to share some of the ethereal light of his career.

His invitation was also a warning to the British sporting public that patience with Raducanu’s trajectory is running out. Their frustration is, in a sense, born of misperceptions. Injuries — which required surgery on both wrists last summer, the area she is now struggling with — have blighted her career for more than a year; winning a US Open title as a qualifier at 18 is as anomalous as it is remarkable.

Raducanu has not yet been able to prove that she can be a normal tennis player, and a really good one at that. She has not really had the chance to do so. And given her injury-proneness, she is probably one of those players who has to train a lot outside of tournaments to stay as healthy as possible and reach her full potential.

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

The irony of all this is that when Murray was the same age as Raducanu, he didn't exactly have the best reputation either.

In his case, a large portion of tennis viewers had a strange view of his often grumpy behavior on court. It was not how a rising force in a gentleman's game should behave in the era of Roger Federer, the greatest gentleman of all time — when he figured out how to stop breaking rackets.

That Judy Murray added fuel to the fire that Raducanu was trying to extinguish with all her might showed that she had a clear vision of the priorities for the next two weeks. For the remaining players in the singles competition, the emphasis is more on winning titles than on providing a platform for a farewell speech.

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The best way for Raducanu to prove her potential would be to perform well at Wimbledon, after the toughest period of her career.

Stretching herself to potential defeat for the sake of a sporting event that has little significance in the grand scheme of her career would not be a good way to do it.

Anyone who had a rational plan to best prepare Raducanu for a match on Sunday would not have put her on the court late the day before for a match that, while emotional, would probably also have the air of a demonstration. They would have put her on a bench, perhaps with an ice pack on her stiff wrist, rather than a racket in her hand.

When you play a symbolic match with Murray in front of more than 12,000 screaming fans in the evening, you sleep badly and your body is full of adrenaline until the early hours. And then there is the care after the match, the food, going to bed and relaxing.

Emma Raducanu Wimbledon scaled


Raducanu hopes to regain her consistency after a difficult period with injuries (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

That's not a rational plan to be successful during your prime at a Grand Slam tournament, considering you won one almost three years ago.

But tennis isn’t a rational sport, it’s an emotional one, full of unique codes of etiquette that players often don’t want to compromise for fear of angering the karma gods of the sport. Scolding the greatest tennis legend in your country’s history at his last Wimbledon, during a week that was all about him, when you’re only in the singles thanks to a wildcard, seems like a good way to piss them off — or at least Judy Murray, which has never been good etiquette.

If you could walk onto a court with that legend, the essence of good Wimbledon karma, and maybe pick up a tip or two about what it takes to win at this venue, that would be a good way to get the mystical powers of the game on your side.

Raducanu has made a decision that she believes is right and best for her tennis career at Wimbledon this year.

Do those karma gods really exist? Maybe only if you believe in them.

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

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