Emma Raducanu told a press conference she ‘needs to cut herself some slack’ after losing to the world number 100 in her first match since she won the US Open and parted with her longtime coach Andrew Richardson.
The champion of New York turned out to be no queen of the desert at Indian Wells as she was soundly beaten on her first appearance since Flushing Meadows, going down 6-2 6-4 to Aliaksandra Sasnovich at the BNP Paribas Open.
The jaunty and irrepressible air that Raducanu displayed during her astonishing Grand Slam victory appeared to be replaced by flat body language.
But the Kent teenager responded maturely to this setback against an opponent who had already experienced these sluggish conditions in the first round, reasoning: ‘You can easily get sucked into being so focused on the result and getting disappointed.
‘I mean, I’m 18 years old. I need to cut myself some slack.’
Emma Raducanu was soundly beaten on her first appearance since Flushing Meadows, going down 6-2 6-4 to Aliaksandra Sasnovich at the BNP Paribas Open
Raducanu of Great Britain & Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus pictured following the second round of the 2021 BNP Paribas Open WTA 1000 tennis tournament
The jaunty and irrepressible air that Raducanu displayed during her astonishing Grand Slam victory appeared to be replaced by flat body language
She continued: ‘I haven’t had much experience with night matches. I’ve only played one before on (Arthur) Ashe. I’m still very, very new to the tour.
‘I think that experience just comes from playing week in, week out.
‘I’m kind of glad that what happened today happened so I can learn and take it as a lesson. So going forward I’ll have more experienced banked.
‘You’re going to have highs and you’re always going to have some lows where you’re disappointed with how you performed.
‘Aliaksandra played a great match. You could tell she’s more experienced than me. She went out there and executed her game plan better than I did.’
On a cool evening the huge stadium was less than a quarter full as this event struggles to pull in the crowds with its temporary October date.
World number 100 Aliaksandra Sasnovich handed Raducanu her first loss since August 22 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California
Raducanu despite her US Open triumph has still not won a set in a standard WTA tour match beneath the Grand Slams
Those present did try to get behind the new British number one as she briefly pulled ahead in the second set, but were silenced again as she went down amid a welter of errors.
What had been billed as Brit night was rescued by Andy Murray later, when he defeated Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-3 6-2.
It makes the call to dispense with coach Mr Richardson immediately after the US Open look even less fathomable. He was not there in the box as a reassuring presence, and nor was her physio Will Herbert, two massive components of the tight-knit group that helped guide her during that magical fortnight.
There is also the reminder – which she surely does not need – that the extra curricular activities and rewards springing from the events of last month are all secondary to what happens out on the court.
Raducanu told a press conference: ‘You can easily get sucked into being so focused on the result and getting disappointed. I mean, I’m 18 years old. I need to cut myself some slack’
She added: ‘I haven’t had much experience with night matches. I’ve only played one before on (Arthur) Ashe. I’m still very, very new to the tour’
She will now fly home with the prospect of three tournaments coming up indoors around Europe, starting in Moscow. Whether she plays them all remains open to question, and qualifying for next month’s year-end finals in Mexico now looks nigh on impossible.
Raducanu actually started off like a train against her Belarusian opponent, a canny campaigner who is better than her ranking suggests.
The British player won the first six points, seamlessly picking up from where she left off at Flushing Meadows, like a player who had not lost a set since mid-August.
Yet with the ball not going through the court the errors soon began to appear and she was broken in the third game. Sasnovich played an excellent first set, standing close in to attack the second serve and almost cutting out groundstroking mistakes entirely.
She will now fly home with the prospect of three tournaments coming up indoors around Europe, starting in Moscow
Andy Murray beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in straight sets after Raducanu’s defeat
Raducanu regularly overhit beyond the baseline as she struggled to find her length. Her returns, so impressive in New York, were failing to do much damage. Her footwork and body language were stiff – this was not the ‘free hit’ she had been enjoying at the Grand Slam.
Sasnovich broke early in the second but then her level dropped off and Raducanu forged her way to 4-2 amid plenty of errors on both sides. It looked like Raducanu might problem serve her way out of this, and she began to hit the ball more in a cross court pattern.
Yet when she threatened to pull away the mistakes came back and she began to unravel against someone who has been ranked as high as number 30 in the world, the odd wild slap of the ball creeping in towards the end.
This result might be a blessing in disguise for someone seeking to fill in the plentiful gaps of experience which remain. It is not a drama or a crisis but a return to earth for someone had, prior to this, defied the laws of gravity.