Madrid | Dismal day for Raducanu, but Osaka and Stephens among those to get off the mark

Two high-profile names made early exits from the Mutua Madrid Open on Wednesday under distinctly different circumstances, with Emma Raducanu succumbing with barely a fight to Argentine qualifier Maria Lourdes Carle, citing fatigue, while Caroline Wozniacki battled to the bitter end before being edged out by the canny Italian, Sara Errani, in 3 sets.

Emma is someone who likes to know the numbers, and when she looks at these stats, she won’t want to know them. 19 unforced errors, 33% of points won on serve, that’s poor. A lot of those unforced errors coming off the forehand. In this situation, the performer needs to come out more. She needs to be more expressive. Anne Keothavong, Great Britain's Billie Jean King Cup team captain

Raducanu said afterwards that she felt exhausted after being soundly beaten 6-2 6-2 by the 21-year-old Argentine in an hour and 25 minutes.

After helping Britain beat France in the Billie Jean King Cup, Raducanu reached her first WTA quarter-final in 19 months at the Stuttgart Open last week, as she continues her come-back from an injury-hit 2023 season.

“I would say the last few weeks have been a lot,” Raducanu said. “I think, from the performance today, it was very clear that, mentally and emotionally, I was exhausted.

“I was trying to push through, and I was just unable to push through today. I guess the sport is just pretty brutal.”

Now ranked 221 and needing wild-cards to get into these draws, Raducanu was unable to recover after falling a double break down in both sets against her 82nd-ranked opponent, who clearly had the measure of the Madrid clay courts, having come through qualifying without loss of a set.

The 21-year old Brit’s performance drew criticism from her BJK Cup Captain, Anne Keothavong, who watched Raducanu on commentary duties for Sky Sports and lamented: “Frustration is getting the better of her,” she said of the 19 unforced errors she made in the first set. “She slapped at a couple of those forehands.

“Emma should take herself for a bathroom break. That was a poor [first] set. She wasn’t really able to make the impact she would have liked to, early on in the set, and it just seemed to run away from her.

“Emma has to have a good talk to herself. How much does she really want to win this? How is she going to fight and battle? It doesn’t have to be pretty tennis, but she’s going to have work a hell of a lot harder.

“Emma is someone who likes to know the numbers, and when she looks at these stats, she won’t want to know them. 19 unforced errors, 33% of points won on serve, that’s poor.

“A lot of those unforced errors coming off the forehand. In this situation, the performer needs to come out more. She needs to be more expressive.”

The second set saw no improvement, prompting Keothavong to add: “A lot of these points are just too quick and going the wrong way for Raducanu. She’s just slapping at forehands.

“Those last few points, they just aren’t good enough. It’s poor. You can’t emotionally checkout now.”

Say no more.


Sara Errani battled for nearly 3 hours to see off wild-card Caroline Wozniacki in her opener in Madrid

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Wozniacki was using every ounce of her energy and experience to try to fight her way past Errani for close to 3 hours in what proved to be a right royal battle.

Errani also had to qualify, but the Italian is a former Roland Garros finalist, comfortable on clay, and came from a set down to beat the Dane, 3-6 7-5 7-5, in 2 hours and 48 minutes.

Wozniacki, a former World No 1, reached the Madrid final in its inaugural edition in 2019, while Errani advanced to the semi-final in 2021.

Now ranked 100 and 36-years old, Errani reached her first semi-final since 2017 in Bogotà last April, where she won 3 matches before losing to eventual champion Camila Osorio.

Wozniacki, who originally hung up her rackets in 2020 to start a family, returned to action last summer with the Paris Olympic Games firmly in her sights, but a medal on one of her least favourite surfaces may prove a step too far for the Dane, who squandered a one-set lead to the former World No 5, and bowed out of Manolo Santana Stadium.

Now 33, Wozniacki broke twice to take an early 4-1 lead, but Errani pulled one back before the Dane took a third to go 5-2 up, and although the Italian broke back for 3-5, she closed out the first set.

The diminutive Italian broke through in the second in the 9th game to take a 5-4 lead, but missed out on 3 consecutive set points and was broken from 40-0 up.

She eventually converted on her 4th set point at 6-5 to send the match into the decider.

After trading breaks, they made their way to 5-5, when Errani hit a backhand to earn her 4th break of the set to take a 6-5 lead, and served out the win on her 2nd match point to clinch her 2nd win over Wozniacki in 6 meetings.

Errani sets up a 2nd-round match against Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia, against whom she holds a 3-1 lead in their head-to-head record.

Britain’s Harriet Dart was also beaten in straight sets in Madrid, after the the 27-year-old, who won 2 qualifying matches to reach the main draw, held a 4-0 lead in her second set against Spain’s Cristina Bucsa but went on to lose 6-4 6-4.


Naomi Osaka won her first clay court match since 2021 against lucky loser Greet Minnen on Day 2 at La Caja Magica

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Another big name returning to the tour, Naomi Osaka, did win her opening skirmish with lucky loser Greet Minnen from Belgium, 6-4 6-1.

The former World No 1 of Japan grew up playing on hard courts in the United States, and is back at the Caja Magica for the first time in 2 years after maternity leave, looking comfortable on the clay, and booking a 2nd-round meeting with No 15 seed Liudmila Samsonova from Russia.

It was just the 4th victory on clay for Osaka since the start of 2021, and the 4-time Grand Slam champion is hopeful it won’t be her last in Madrid this fortnight.

“I’ve had several ‘incidents’ on clay but I’m embracing it a lot more now,” the 26-year-old told reporters. “I feel like there’s definitely beauty to it.

“I’m taking a lot of inspiration from people that do very well here. I’m not expecting to be like, Iga [Swiatek], or something, but I just want to do the best with what I have.”

Osaka cruised through her service games in the opening set at Arantxa Sanchez stadium, but failed to convert 3 break point chances before finally earning the break she needed in the 10th game to take a one-set lead.

The second proved a stroll as the Japanese built a 5-0 lead, and secured the win with a backhand winner on the 79-minute mark.

“I think I slid a couple of times to my forehand pretty well, so I was excited about that,” Osaka said. “She was hitting really good drop-shots, but I think I got to a couple quite well.

“I think, just movement-wise, I’m feeling a lot more comfortable. I think shot-wise, I hit a couple of heavy balls. Hopefully I’m able to continue that.”

Osaka has extra motivation to do well on clay this season due to the fact the Olympic Games will be played on the red dirt at Roland Garros this summer.

“The Olympics are a really big goal for me,” she said. “I would really love to play them.”


Sloane Stephens, the Rouen champion last week, continued her run after a 3 hour 16 minute tussle with Martina Trevisan on Wednesday in Madrid

© Elsa/Getty Images

Elsewhere, Sloane Stephens keeps on winning, having bagged the title in Rouen on Sunday and opening her Madrid campaign with her 6th win in a row after a 3 hour 16 minute tussle with Martina Trevisan, another well-proven Italian on the clay, 6-3 5-7 6-4.

Despite squandering a set and a 5-3 lead, Stephens, a former World No 3, managed to emerge the winner out on Court 5.

“Honestly, I went there [to Rouen] to try and fight the jet lag because I’d never really played that early in the clay season,” she said later. “I was, like, ‘I’m just going to do something different’. I spent one day at home with my family before going out there and was, like, ‘I’m going to make a little sacrifice and see if it pays off, see if I can get adjusted earlier’.

“Mind you, I came early and have spent 10 days here, and I’m still jet-lagged!” Stephens added with a laugh. “So, it didn’t help at all.”

Stephens next takes on Elise Mertens, the 28th seed from Belgium.

Home favourite and former World No 2 Paula Badosa, who is struggling with long-term back pain since she sustained a stress fracture last year, crashed out, 2-6 6-3 6-3, to qualifier Jessica Bouzas Maneiro in an all-Spanish affair.

Badosa recently made a heart-breaking revelation about her unceasing back injury issue, cause by a spinal stress fracture that derailed her season last year.

She kicked off her 2024 campaign at the Adelaide International, but has had to pull out of numerous tournaments since then due to the persistent injury.

“Honestly, I have goosebumps again, because in Indian Wells the doctors told me it’ll be very complicated to continue my career,” she said on the WTA Insider podcast. “And I said, okay, I need a solution – something.

“So you know, we tried these injections – cortisone. And they said, this is the only option we can give you and maybe you will have to keep doing that if you want to play for a few more years.

“I’m like, a few more years? I’m still 26,” Badosa added. “So for me that was very tough. And you’ll have to handle, especially the hardcourt, you have to play very less, and play less tournaments and all this. So for me [who] loves to compete, that was a very, very bad news.”


Wang Xinyu defeated Viktoriya Tomova after saving 10 match points to hold off a third-set come-back in Madrid

WTAtennis.com

In other Wednesday results:

  • Serbian qualifier Olga Danilovic stormed back from 6-3, 5-2 down and saved 4 match points in her 3-6 7-6(8) 6-4 win over France’s Clara Burel;
  • 18-year-old Czech qualifier Sara Bejlek earned the first tour-level win of her career, coming back from a set and a break down to topple Anna Blinkova from Russia, 4-6 6-3 6-3;
  • China’s Wang Xinyu defeated Viktoriya Tomova from Romania after losing the first set from 5-3 up, winning the second from 5-2 down, and saving 10 match points along the way to hold off a third-set come-back; and
  • Colombian qualifier Emiliana Arango squeaked out a 1-6 6-4 7-6(2) win over American Amanda Anisimova.

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