Indian Wells loss a setback for Emma Raducanu but no need to press the panic button yet!

Emma Raducanu is maintaining good perspective after losing her first match since winning the US Open – it’s no time to press the panic button yet

9 October 2021
Emma Raducanu (GBR) hits a shot against Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Playing her first match since her captivating run to the US Open title in September, 18-year-old Emma Raducanu was knocked out of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in the second round. Even though she hasn’t played a match since that stunning win, Raducanu has been in the headlines – with an endorsement deal, a change in her coaching situation, appearances on Wall Street , the Met Gala and the premiere of the new James Bond movie, a hit with the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton – all keeping her in the spotlight.

On Friday evening, Raducanu returned to the WTA tour as a wild card entry into the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells – her first time ever in what one of tennis’ most prestigious non-Slam events, which is now being billed as Tennis Paraside.

But the Centre Court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden was anything but paradise for Raducanu, as she slupmed to a 6-2, 6-4 loss to 27-year-old Aliaksandra Sasnovich. The Belarusian’s current ranking of No 100 covers up her vast experience on the women’s circuit – she has been ranked as high as No. 30 in December 2018 and is a two-time WTA runner-up with over $3.8 million in career prize money.

Sasnovich won 6-2, 6-4, coming from 2-4 down in the second set, to score one of the most high-profile wins of her career – ending Raducanu’s 10-match winning streak in one hour 25 minutes.

Raducanu will learn from that experience

Wihle Raducanu showed icredible poise and maturity in the manner she handled her oevrnight usccess and fame, the 18-year-old seemed to deal with her surprising loss with the same posie and maturity.

Speaking to the media later, Raducanu said she would take this as a learning experience and knows she needs to gain more experience at this level on a week-in week-out basis.

“I think it’s going to take me time to adjust really to what’s going on. I mean, I’m still so new to everything. Like the experiences that I’m going through right now, even though I might not feel 100% amazing right now, I know they’re for the greater good. For the bigger picture, I’ll be thanking this moment. So, that’s the lesson I think, that 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.”

Raducanu also credited her much more experienced opponent for playing a good match.

“I think Aliaksandra played a great match. She’s an extremely experienced opponent who has been on the tour for many years. I had to get used to the conditions. It’s my first time playing in Indian Wells. She was better than me today so she deserves to win.”

“She’s been on tour, probably been 4-2 down like hundreds of times whereas I’ve been 4-2 up. It’s my third WTA tournament this year. It will come in time. Just got to not rush it and keep going and get my head back to the drawing board really.”

How other recent first-time Grand Slam winners fared after their major breakthrough

Emma Raducanu, Indian Wells 2021
Oct 8, 2021; Indian Wells, CA, USA; Emma Raducanu (GBR) reacts after losing a point to Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Many players have admitted to struggling with either the expectations heaped upon them after winning their first Grand Slam title while others have struggled to find a new goal – after accomplishing a life long chase to become a Grand Slam champion.

After winning her first major at the 1999 US Open, Serena Williams had to wait until the 2002 French Open to add a second major title. Maria Sharapova’s Wimbledon title in 2004 was followed by the US Open crown in 2006. Given by the time some of her predeccors have taken, it should come as no surprise if Emma Raducanu takes some time before adjusting to the new life and expectations that now trail her.

Here’s a look at how the 10 most recent first-time Grand Slam winners on the WTA Tour have fared in their outings after their breakthrough major title.

  • Barbora Krejcikova – First Grand Slam at 2021 Roland-Garros

The Czechwoman lost in her the fourth round of her next event – at Wimbledon to Ash Barty. SInce that, Krejcikova has gone on to win her home event at Prague and did not show signs of an immediate slump in form after her first major.

  • Iga Swiatek – First Grand Slam at 2020 Roland-Garros
Iga Swiatek, Roland-Garros 2020
Iga Swiatek, Roland-Garros 2020

Like Raducanu, Swiatek’s triumph in Paris came as a bolt out of the blue – although she had been ranked inside the top 60 by then as compared to Raducanu, who began the US Open as world No 150. While there weren’t many events in 2020 on the WTA Tour following her French Open win, Swiatek returned to the circuit in Australia this year. She lost her second match at the Gippsland Trophy in Melbourne. Since then, the Pole has won titles in Adelaide and Rome, besides reaching the quarter-final at the French Open and the last 16 at all the other majors this year, putting her in a good position to qualify for the WTA Finals in November.

  • Sofia Kenin- First Grand Slam at 2020 Australian Open

American Sofia Kenin won her first major in Melbourne as the world No 15. In her first outing post that, Kenin went 1-1 in Fed Cup action followed by back-to-back losses in Dubai and Doha. Kenin did win the Lyon title and reach the final of the French Open last year but has had a slump in form in her sophomore year, having yet to reach a semi-final on tour in 2021.

  • Bianca Andreescu – First Grand Slam at 2019 US Open

After winning the US Open in 2019, Andreescu reached the quarter-finals at the China Open and went 0-2 at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen. The Canadian had to miss the entire 2020 season due to injuries and when she returned earlier this year, she reached the semi-final at the Phillip Island event in Melbourne and the Miami final, as she still searches for her first post US Open title.

  • Ash Barty – First Slam at 2019 French Open

The Australian is one of the few in this lsit who managed to win the first tournament they entred after lifting their first Grand Slam tophy. Barty won the Birmingham event on grass immediately after her Paris breakthrough. Although she did not get past the fourth round at Wimbledon and the US Open that year, Barty ended the season on a high note – winning the WTA Finals. Barty has remained among the top players on the women’s side, adding a second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon this year.

  • Naomi Osaka – First Grand Slam at 2018 US Open
Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka at the 2018 US Open 09082018
Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka at the 2018 US Open

The Japanese player’s breakthrough came at the 2018 US Open. Osaka lost the final at the WTA event in Tokyo in her first appearance after her win and lost all her three matches at the WTA Finals in Singapore before adding a second major at the next Slam at the Australian Open.

  • Simona Halep – First Grand Slam at 2018 French Open

After her major breakthrough in Paris in 2018, Halep lost her next event in the third round at the All England Club. Halep also won the Canadian Open and reached the final in Cincinnati immediately and is another player who managed to remain at the top of the game before injuries derailed her season in 2021, sending her out of the top 10.

  • Caroline Wozniacki – First Grand Slam at 2018 Australian Open

The Dane won her first major title at the age of 27, after more than a decade of top-level tennis. Wozniacki’s next event was a quarter-final finish at St. Petersburg and the semi-final in Doha.

  • Sloane Stephens – First Grand Slam at 2017 US Open

One of the longer slumps of a recent first-time Grand Slam winner happened to American Sloane Stephens. The American was ranked 83rd in the world when she won the US Open and then lost her final six matches to end the season.

  • Jelena Ostapenko – First Grand Slam at 2017 French Open

The Latvian was also a surprising winner – triumphing at Roland-Garros in 2017. But she lost her second match post that in the round of 16 at Eastbourne, followed by a quarter-final finish at Wimbledon. After that, Ostapenko has reached the second week at a major only once – a semi-final finish at Wimbledon in 2018.

As seen above, Raducanu is not the first player to face an early exit in her first event after winning her maiden Slam and she won’t be the last. If she is able to handle her losses like she did today, the Brit looks well poised to ride out the highs and lows of the tennis world without getting deeply affected by them – which is a good sign for her and for women’s tennis in the long run.

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