Emma Raducanu reveals she has lost all her toenails

Emma Raducanu toenails gruesome injury - GETTY IMAGES
Emma Raducanu toenails gruesome injury - GETTY IMAGES

Emma Raducanu has revealed her latest, and possibly most gruesome, injury since turning professional - losing her toenails.

The British No 1 has suffered a string of physical set-backs since her remarkable breakthrough at the US Open last autumn, with blisters hampering her attempt to make progress at the Australian Open in January and being forced out of the Guadalajara Open with a hip problem.

Now, ahead of her debut for Great Britain in the Billie Jean King Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic in Prague, Raducanu has disclosed she has been struck down again.

“I have no toenails," she said, when asked for an update on her physical condition. "It was just my foot, my shoes, they've just been sliding around a lot [in the shoe]. I had a small niggle in Miami but now I have no physical thing.”

The strange-sounding affliction was not caused by a freak accident - or trying out a pair of killer heels from her sponsor, Dior - but is, in fact, a relatively common occurrence in sportspeople where the toenails fall out due to a series of small impacts over a prolonged period. It would seem that this is what happened with Raducanu as she dealt with a gruelling match and practice schedule.

The revelation was greeted with giggles from her British team-mates Harriet Dart, Katie Swan and Sonay Kartal, who is in the GB squad for the first time. Captain Anne Keothavong even suggested the 19-year-old's ailment had helped the team to bond this week.

“I’ve always said these weeks are different to what they experienced at the usual kind of tennis tournaments and it’s really important that, as a team, we can create memorable moments. I think we’ve been doing so. And we’re all a little scarred by Emma’s toes!” she said, laughing.

Britain have never won the Billie Jean Cup or its previous incarnation, the Fed Cup, while the Czech Republic are 11-time champions. The tournament, which concludes in November, marks another key milestone in Raducanu’s development, with her match against 22-year-old world No 32 Marketa Vondrousova on Saturday afternoon at the Czech Lawn Tennis Club representing her first professional outing on clay.

'I genuinely believe that clay could be one of my strongest surfaces'

There have been doubts over Raducanu’s ability on the surface due to her lack of physicality and tendency to hug the baseline during rallies, but she believes she could make the surface her own and points to her ability to move around the court as grounds for optimism.

“I genuinely believe that clay could be one of my strongest surfaces," she said. "I like moving because I feel like I have got a lot more potential physically. And I do enjoy sliding. So, after spending more time on this surface, I'm sure I'll time it better and learn more about the surface but also just the time that the clay brings. I feel like I can really use it and play aggressive whilst also being able to move. I am looking forward to spending more time on clay going forward.”

Raducanu, it would seem, has a serious plan to succeed on clay and recently had a crash course from the highly regarded Italian coach Riccardo Piatti, who worked with Novak Djokovic when the Serb was breaking onto the tour in his late teens and Maria Sharapova in the latter stages of her career. Raducanu spent a week in Italy while her coach Torben Beltz was on holiday.

She said: “I went there to spend more time on clay. I hadn’t spent any prior to that. Torben had been travelling for weeks and weeks and he went on holiday with his kids. He needed that family time. So, I thought I might as well take the opportunity to go to Italy and spend some more time on the dirt.”

The Czechs are currently depleted by injuries with Katerina Siniakova, Raducanu’s conqueror in Miami, having to drop out through injury. Former world No 1 Karolina Pliskova is out through a freak arm injury sustained in the gym. Raducanu may face her toughest test on Saturday as she faces 2019 French Open finalist and clay specialist Vondrousova.

Dart, who has just broken into the world top 100, is the other British player taking on singles responsibilities. She faces Martincova on Friday and Vondrousova on Saturday in a reversal of Raducanu’s ties.

The doubles on Saturday will be contested by rookie Kartal, who was one of Raducanu’s main rivals coming through the LTA ranks. The 20-year-old, who is ranked at 377, is paired with world No 220 Swan. The duo will face world No 77 Marie Bouzkova and the 16-year-old world No 188 Linda Fruhvirtova on Saturday.