This week’s appointment of Dmitry Tursunov as new coach of reigning US Open winner Emma Raducanu has raised the spectre of a propaganda coup for Russia.
The US-based Tursunov, a former player whose ranking once hit world No. 20, separated from his last coaching client – No. 2 Anett Kontaveit – in recent weeks over his inability to travel.
And with the Russian invasion of Ukraine a hot topic in tennis, the thought of Tursunov onboard with Team Emma has raised alarms in London.
A leading MP has already tried to warn the 20-year-old player and her controlling family junta off employing a Russian for fear of a propaganda win for Vladimir Putin..
“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,” MP Chris Bryant told London’s Telegraph.
“I urge her to think again and at the very least to condemn Putin’s barbaric war.”
But the Romanian-Chinese player born in Canada and now living just south of London may be a hard sell on the concept.
Raducanu’s Romanian father Ian is said to call the shots when it comes to coaching: already the WTA No. 10 has gone through a string of coaches after immediately sacking the mentor who took her to the 2021 US Open title from a qualifying start last September.
She has run through four coaches in 13 months, with her most recent split coming with German Torben Beltz in April after an abbreviated five-month run.
Estonian Kontaveit, whose Baltic nation shares part of its border with Russia, said that Tursunov’s inability to move around due to international travel sanctions on Russian passport holders was among the reasons she dissolved their partnership.
“Since 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,” she said.
“I need a coach who can accompany me and who does not have so many practical issues.
“There was a lack of such security, given the situation. He could not come to America with me in March, and now he had a visa problem in relation to England.
“The visa process was very complicated for him.”