Risky Raducanu “knife through butter” coach strategy could be the creative answer to finding long-term success

Experts at the Centre for Creativity enabled by AI (CebAI) say the approach of Emma Raducanu and her father/manager towards hiring and firing coaches is innovative, not brutal.

A search for creative problem-solving in coaching may be a factor in Emma Raducanu’s continuing troubles to find a stable mentor, say Bayes Business School academics.

Raducanu is now searching for her fifth coach inside 15 months after parting company with former professional men’s player Dmitry Tursunov.

It marks the latest twist in a season interrupted by injuries and changes to her support network, following the departures of Nigel Sears, Andrew Richardson and Torben Beltz. After winning the US Open in 2021, Raducanu has struggled for form and consistency, although did reach the semi-final in the Korea Open this year before injury saw her withdraw.

One reason why Raducanu has been unable to settle on a single coach may be the techniques used by her father, and manager, Ian to find additional creativity. Professor Neil Maiden and Sam Stallard-Steele believe moving away from traditional thinking and exploring other solutions could be key to her progression in the months ahead.

“Emma Raducanu goes through coaches like a knife through butter,” said Maiden, a Professor of Digital Creativity at Bayes. “To paraphrase Oscar Wilde’s redoubtable Lady Bracknell, ‘To lose one coach, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose six looks like carelessness’.”

“Emma’s father is said to have considered engaging a different coach for every single shot. Is he a crazed Svengali, a man from the financial services industry, dooming her elite sports career with all this chopping and changing?

“He is said to have a “constant thirst for information” by one tennis insider and this desire for new knowledge sees Raducanu Senior pushing hard against the traditions of establishing long-held coach/athlete relationships.”

This bucks the trend of previous Grand Slam winners, with Patrick Mouratoglou famously coaching Serena Williams for 10 years, Rafael Nadal only playing with three coaches in his 20-year career - two of whom he still works with - and current women’s world number one Iga Świątek stuck with her coach for six years as she climbed the rankings.

Yet, Professor Maiden and Ms Stallard-Steele believe it is the uncharacteristic nature of Raducanu’s father’s approach that is drawing attention.

“At the elite level, where there is little difference in technical ability, athletes win or lose on their decision-making skills,” said Ms Stallard-Steele, Managing Director at the Centre for Creativity enabled by AI (CebAI).

“Having a creative problem-solving approach, not just for the shots but also for the coaching strategy that supports her game, could make all the difference in Raducanu’s career.

“It is most certainly a creative step change from tradition that has caused shock waves in the industry. Some see it as brutal, but it can be a very credible and innovative approach to adopt.”

CebAI has created an app specifically designed for coaches to apply creative problem-solving strategies to their practice. The app, called Sport Sparks, uses algorithms to search for new and highly relevant data and information to deliver prompts that can help coaches think more broadly and apply critical thinking to real-life situations.

The platform is already being used by experts in football, including performance and physio teams at Manchester City and West Ham United, and strength and conditioning coaches at the Lawn Tennis Association.