After appointing a Russian coach, Emma Raducanu will be used as a propaganda tool for Vladimir Putin, an influential MP has warned.
Chris Bryant MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Russia, has urged the 19-year-old to abandon plans to defend her US Open title with Dmitry Tursunov.
“The Kremlin will portray this as a PR coup and an indication that the UK doesn’t really care about the war in Ukraine,” Bryant, a former Foreign Office minister and member of the Foreign Affairs select committee, told Telegraph Sport.
It can also be revealed that Turnsunov, who helped Russia to Davis Cup glory in 2006, avoided having to sign a declaration denouncing the invasion after splitting with world No 2 Anett Kontaveit shortly before Wimbledon.
According to the Government’s guidance, any Russian or Belarussian coach wishing to participate in the championships and warm-up events held in the UK must make such a declaration.
Tursunov appears to have made no public comments about the invasion since it began, whereas Konveit explained to Estonian public broadcaster ERR after their split: “The reason is that, because he has a Russian passport, it is very difficult for him to get visas at the moment, meaning he can’t accompany me to many tournaments.” I still believe I require the assistance of a coach who is not preoccupied with practical matters.
When asked about Raducanu’s collaboration with Tursunov and the risk of undermining Russia’s sanctions, the government referred to the same guidance it issued to sports in the aftermath of the invasion.
The Lawn Tennis Association, which helped fund Raducanu’s career until this year and continues to provide her with science, medicine, and well-being support, declined to comment on her hiring of Tursunov or whether she consulted the organization beforehand.
This summer, Russian and Belarusian players were barred from competing in Wimbledon and the LTA tournaments due to government pressure to prevent those behind the Ukraine invasion from profiting from sporting success.
That was after tournament organizers decided it would be inappropriate to require players from both countries to sign a declaration condemning the invasion, which was nonetheless imposed on coaches.
The player ban was undermined when Moscow-born Elena Rybakina won the women’s singles title after switching allegiance to Kazakhstan in 2018.
The Russian Tennis Federation immediately hijacked Rybankina’s 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Ons Jabeur, claiming the 23-year-old as “our product.”
Raducanu has teamed up with Tursunov, who was born in Moscow but has spent the majority of his life in the United States, ahead of the Citi Open in Washington DC next week.
Since retiring in 2017, the 39-year-old has had notable success with female players, including Estonia’s Kontaveit, whom he helped to the top of the world rankings before their partnership ended after the French Open.
Raducanu has not had a full-time coach since her divorce from Torben Beltz in April. Instead, she has chosen to collaborate with a variety of performers, including doubles specialist Louis Cayer, Iain Bates, and Jane O’Donoghue. She had fired her coach, Andrew Richardson, who had led her to her fairytale grand-slam victory in New York, shortly after her victory in Flushing Meadows, a decision that was criticized by players such as John McEnroe.
Raducanu has struggled to live up to the lofty expectations she set for herself in New York. She has not advanced past the second round of any of the grand slams she has played since winning the US Open, and while she is still ranked No. 10, her ranking is expected to plummet in the coming weeks. As she adjusts to the rigors of life on the WTA Tour, she has also been hampered by a series of minor injuries, including blisters and a side strain.
Tursunov is a respected coach, but he has admitted to using a confrontational approach. In a January interview with tennismajors.com, he stated that many players were “just not willing to hear the truth.” He added: “They want to hear that the problem is maybe with the racquet or with the grips, or maybe with their mum or their dad and it takes a certain maturity and self-awareness to admit to yourself that there’s a problem.