The England rugby union head coach, Eddie Jones, has received criticism after claiming that Emma Raducanu has been burdened by “distractions” that have affected her form on the court.
Jones, who was speaking after England defeated Tonga in the Autumn Nations Series on Saturday, used Raducanu as a cautionary example when discussing the need for Marcus Smith, the talented young England rugby player, to remain focused. “The big thing for good young players is distractions … there’s a reason why the young girl who won the US Open hasn’t done so well afterwards,” said Jones.
As he discussed Raducanu, Jones did not refer to her by name. “What have you seen her on – the front page of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar or whatever it is, wearing Christian Dior clothes,” he said. “All that is a distraction around her.”
Raducanu’s photoshoot for the October 2021 edition of Vogue took place shortly after her breakout Wimbledon run, which she followed by winning the US Open as a qualifier. This week she has broken into the top 20 for the first time, rising to a career-high ranking of 20.
The comments prompted criticism on social media. The BBC sports presenter Gabby Logan called Jones’s comments “unbelievably unfair and not even remotely comparable … imagine an 18-year-old rugby player winning a World Cup having never played a club game.” Logan’s response was endorsed by the tennis coach Judy Murray.
Meanwhile, the former British No 1 Jo Durie called Jones’s comments sexist. “Emma isn’t a girl; she is an 18-year-old woman. No one ever complains about blokes going to galas; it’s always something that is thrown at women,” Durie told the Telegraph. “Unfortunately, when you’re this famous, everybody likes to have their opinion about you.”
Raducanu competes at the the Linz Open this week, where she is the top seed in her final event of the year, and she is still growing accustomed to the tour after only becoming a full-time professional in June after her A-levels. She has contested two tournaments since the US Open and after her opening round loss at the BNP Paribas Open, she reached her first career WTA tour quarter-final at the Transylvania Open in Cluj.
Such is her high profile, countless prominent figures have already opined on her career and she incidentally discussed similar topics with reporters on Sunday. Raducanu said that she does not listen to outside opinions or read news about herself and she underlined her priorities.
“I made it very, very clear to every single person in my team that I was not going to cancel one training session or practice session for any off-court commitments,” she said. “That was a non-negotiable for me. I wanted to make sure that that is my priority and it is. So everyone’s clear about that.”