Emma Raducanu ‘will be used as propaganda by Putin’ after appointing Russian coach

Emma Raducanu risks controversy by 'hiring Russian coach' for US Open title defence - GETTY IMAGES

Emma Raducanu risks controversy by ‘hiring Russian coach’ for US Open title defence – GETTY IMAGES

Emma Raducanu will be used as a propaganda tool for Vladimir Putin after appointing a Russian coach, an influential MP has warned.

The 19-year-old has been urged to abandon plans to team up with Dmitry Tursunov for her defence of her US Open crown by Chris Bryant MP, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Russia.

“The Kremlin will portray this as a PR coup and an indication that the UK doesn’t really care about the war in Ukraine, so it’ll be a real shame if Emma goes ahead with this,” Bryant, a member of the Foreign Affairs select committee and a former Foreign Office minister, told Telegraph Sport. “I urge her to think again and at the very least to condemn Putin’s barbaric war.”

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.

Telegraph Sport has been told that any Russian or Belarusian coach wanting access to the championships and warm-up events held in the UK had to make such a declaration under guidance issued by the Government.

There is no suggestion this played a part in Tursunov’s split with Kontaveit but he also appears to have made no public comment on the invasion since it began.

Asked about Raducanu teaming up with Tursunov and the risk of it undermining sanctions imposed on Russia, the Government pointed to the same guidance it issued to sports in the wake of the invasion.

Dmitry Tursunov of Russia returns a shot during his first round Men's Singles match against Cameron Norrie of the United Kingdom on Day One of the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 28, 2017 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City - GETTY IMAGESDmitry Tursunov of Russia returns a shot during his first round Men's Singles match against Cameron Norrie of the United Kingdom on Day One of the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 28, 2017 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City - GETTY IMAGES

Dmitry Tursunov of Russia returns a shot during his first round Men’s Singles match against Cameron Norrie of the United Kingdom on Day One of the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 28, 2017 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City – GETTY IMAGES

The Lawn Tennis Association, which helped fund Raducanu’s career until this year and continues to provide science, medicine and wellbeing support to her, declined to comment on her appointment of Tursunov or whether she had consulted the organisation beforehand.

Russian and Belarusian players were banned from Wimbledon and LTA tournaments this summer amid pressure from the Government to stop those behind the Ukraine invasion being able to exploit sporting success there.

That was after tournament organisers decided it would be wrong to ask players from the two countries to sign a declaration denouncing the invasion – something it nevertheless imposed on coaches.

The player ban was undermined when Moscow-born Elena Rybakina – who switched allegiance to Kazakhstan in 2018 – won the women’s singles title.

Rybankina’s 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 triumph against Ons Jabeur was immediately hijacked by the Russian Tennis Federation, which claimed the 23-year-old as “our product”.

Tursunov’s confrontational style

Raducanu has linked up with Tursunov, who was also born in Moscow but has spent most of his life in the United States, ahead of next week’s Citi Open in Washington DC.

Since retiring in 2017, the 39-year-old has enjoyed notable successes with female players, including Estonia’s Kontaveit, whom he took into the world’s top five before their partnership ended after the French Open.

Raducanu has not employed a full-time coach since she split with Torben Beltz in April. Instead, she has opted to work with a range of figures, such as doubles specialist Louis Cayer, Iain Bates and Jane O’Donoghue. She had ditched the coach who took her to her fairytale grand-slam success in New York, Andrew Richardson, shortly after her victory in Flushing Meadows, a decision which was criticised by the likes of John McEnroe.

Raducanu has struggled to live up to the sky-high standards she set in New York. She has not gone beyond the second round at any of the grand slams she has played since winning the US Open, and while she is still ranked No 10 in the world, that is likely to drop rapidly in the coming weeks. She has also been hampered by a series of niggling injuries – including blisters and a side strain – as she adjusts to the rigours of life on the WTA Tour.

Tursunov is a respected coach but has admitted employing a confrontational style. In an interview with tennismajors.com in January, he said a lot of 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.

“So that’s the first step: being honest with the player and telling them, ‘If you hire me as a coach, then you’re asking for my opinion’. So, if I’m giving my opinion, it’s then the decision of the player to use it or not. I don’t care, I’m getting paid one way or the other!”