Eight sports stars who peaked at a young age as Emma Raducanu struggles with form


Emma Raducanu’s decline in form since her historic victory at the US Open continued this week with another retirement at the Nottingham Open.

It’s the 19-year-old’s third DNF in a turbulent few months that left her in search of her fourth permanent coach and saw her win just nine of her WTA Tour matches, tasting defeat 12 times. .

She was well beaten in the second round of the French Open last month by Belarusian world number 47 Aliaksandra Sasnovich. And while she is just at the very beginning of her career, Raducanu could suffer the same fate as the following sports stars who peaked at a young age.

Mike Owen

The early years of Michael Owen’s career were his best in an England shirt

Raducanu’s injury woes are reminiscent of Michael Owen’s struggles. The former England and Liverpool striker has had his career plagued by spells on the sidelines.

Owen burst onto the scene as a teenager for club and country, scoring sacks full of goals. The most iconic strike came when he was just 18 as he ran from the halfway line to the net against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup.

A Ballon d’Or win in 2002 showed just how good he was, but it was largely a downhill run for him from then on. Owen never reached the same heights after leaving Liverpool until his retirement at 33.

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Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova celebrates winning Wimbledon in 2004
Tennis great Maria Sharapova was just 18 when she won Wimbledon

Another star who had a legendary career cut short by injury was Maria Sharapova. Like Raducanu, the Russian won her first Grand Slam aged 18 with success at Wimbledon in 2004.

Further victories at the US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008 were followed by two French Open victories in 2012 and 2014, which cemented his legacy as one tennis greats. Although she couldn’t prolong it, Raducanu would kill to emulate Sharapova.

Rory McIlroy

Northern Ireland golfer Rory McIlroy poses with the US Open trophy at the Holywood Golf Club in Holywood, near Belfast, Northern Ireland June 22, 2011
Rory McIlroy’s victory at the US Open in 2011 stunned the world

The past few years have been frustrating for former golf world number one Rory McIlroy. He stunned the world with his dominating victory at the US Open in 2011.

But his other three major victories, the 2012 and 2014 PGA Championship and the 2014 Open, all came before he turned 25. Now 33, champion status has eluded McIlroy ever since.

Danny Cipriani

Danny Cipriani of England in action during the RBS 6 Nations Championship match between England and Ireland at Twickenham on March 15, 2008
England thought they had a star in the hands of Danny Cipriani

Rugby star Danny Cipriani was England’s next big star in 2008. Making his debut for his country aged 20, he controlled the game against Ireland in place of Jonny WIlkinson.

But issues off the pitch, including his high-profile relationship with model Kelly Brook, contributed to a 10-year absence from the international scene. And he never reached the heights his initial promise suggested he could.

Dele Alli

Dele Alli of Everton reacts after the defeat in the Premier League match between Everton and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Goodison Park on March 13, 2022
It’s been a fall from grace for Dele Alli

There’s still time for Dele Alli to change his career, but it’s been one hell of a fall from grace for the 26-year-old. Not so long ago he was tearing it up for Tottenham and England.

His peak included a PFA Young Player of the Year gong and a place in the PFA Team of the Year. Now the attacking midfielder is out in the cold at Everton and a million miles from Gareth Southgate’s side.

mike tyson

Mike Tyson holds the heavyweight belts for the WBA (l) and WBC championships after winning a unanimous decision over Tony Tucker on August 1, 1987
Mike Tyson was at the peak of his powers as a youngster

Mike Tyson still holds the record for youngest heavyweight boxing champion after winning his first title at 20 years, four months and 22 days. The early years of his storied career were as dominant as a sportsman ever was.

And although he became champion again after his loss to Buster Douglas, his reign as the undisputed heavyweight king of the world from 1987 to 1990 is undoubtedly when he was at the peak of his powers.

Keith Deller

Keith Deller on the pitch for his beloved city of Ipswich after winning the 1983 World Championship
Keith Deller couldn’t replicate his 1983 World Championship win

At 24, Keith Deller produced a remarkable performance at the 1983 BDO World Championship. Entering as a qualifier, he beat world number three John Lowe, defending champion and world number two Jocky Wilson, then top dog Eric Bristow on his way to a breathtaking victory.

It turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime achievement, but one that wrote his name in the history books and nonetheless established 138’s ‘Deller crate’. He now works as a spotter for Sky Sports.

Freddy Adou

Freddy Adu holds a Major League Soccer banner during a news conference announcing his multi-year contract with Major League Soccer at Madison Square Garden in New York on November 19, 2003.
A 14-year-old Freddy Adu has been tipped for big things

Once dubbed “the next Pelé”, Freddy Adu had so many expectations around him. After all, he made his MLS debut for DC United aged just 14!

He went on to earn 17 caps for the United States, but his teenage years were as good as they come. Now 33, Adu’s latest spell came at Swedish side Österlen FF, who terminated his contract in February 2021.


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