Emma Raducanu’s run to victory in the 2021 US Open was unprecedented. No British female had won a grand slam in over 44 years. No qualifier had ever won a Grand Slam. And she didn’t drop a single set all championship! Wow. That’s the equivalent of a North West Counties team winning the FA Cup without conceding a single goal! But what makes Raducanu so good? How did this 18 year burst onto the tennis scene in record breaking fashion?
Rotation is so important to Raducanu’s play. It’s how she generates her torque. The more she rotates the more force she can apply to the ball. As you can see in the video above, rotational movements are prominent from the feet through the legs, hips, spine and head. Rotation is key in most bat and ball sports and Raducanu displays this very clearly. All her different body systems are closely integrated ensuring that they respond to each other.
Rotation is how we oppose gravity. The greater our levels of rotation the easier we can move. Consequently, Raducanu is putting less strain on her body, as less emphasis is placed on her muscles. She has a more efficient movement, which reduces her injury risk. Furthermore, with this rotation she can get higher off the ground when serving in an effortless motion. Whilst she can place more topspin on the ball as her arms rotate when hitting her effective groundstrokes.
On her serve she almost rotates too far, ending up with her body facing toward the umpires chair. Consequently she requires a strong counter-rotation to get back into position quickly. This is evident on all ground strokes too. Her defence and anticipation are excellent. Her strong counter-rotation enables this, allowing her to rotate back to a set position ready to respond to her opponent’s next shot. She is rarely off balance, which enables her to maintain her vision. This means she can effectively track the ball and pick up cues from her opponents movement. To enable this her counter-rotation needs to be efficient and strong, if not she will put too much strain on her body and increase injury risk. Alternatively, she could also be out of position when the opponent plays their next shot.
The key area of the body responsible for the effectiveness of both Raducanu’s rotation and counter -rotation is her hips. She has a very effective pelvic strike. As can be seen in the video analysis it is her hips that start each movement. A prominent pelvic strike results in greater rotation and controlled counter-rotation. Starting this movement at the hips generates the torque required for the shoulders to follow. Consequently, force is generated by whole body movement, rather than muscles. This results in greater control in each of her shots as her arms do not have to apply the power. An effective pelvic strike is also linked to vision. This means that she can maintain eyes on the ball and opponent aiding her anticipation. Furthermore, less strain is placed on the back as it does not need to compensate, which would increase injury risk.
One area to monitor is the rotation through her feet. As can be seen in the slow-motion clips in the analysis video, her front foot on the back hand often acts as a fulcrum. It doesn’t rotate as efficiently and effectively as her feet do on the forehand. A glitch is apparent with a slight stutter in the movement. The screenshot above demonstrates this. Following completion of her shot her toes still point toward the umpire’s chair rather than back down court. This will put more strain on Raducanu’s knee and can lead to compensation that will be felt through the back.
In contrast check out Serena Williams as a comparison. Serena’s feet rotate so effortlessly that they face back down court after every shot. There is no stutter in her foot movement. The rotation here takes the strain off the knees and hips reducing her injury risk. Working on the rotation through Raducanu’s ankle and legs on the backhand shot will help reduce any injury risk when playing this shot. Something fellow British Tennis great Andy Murray struggled with. Ultimately something that took it’s toll over the course of his career.
Emma Raducanu was a rising star in British sport. Following her performance in the US Open the future is now. As this analysis has shown she has effective movement that results in this success. Movement Lesson can help replicate this elite movement in aspiring Tennis players too. Movement LessonTM can improve rotation and pelvic strike as well as vision, counter-rotation, balance and integration of body parts.
If you would like to receive a free self-lesson to experience Movement Lesson for yourself please add your details here. Alternatively, you can ask for more information on how Movement Lesson could help your performance. You can also subscribe to our Movement Lesson Sports Academy YouTube page and follow our twitter @_ML_UK for regular updates.