5th-seeded Daria Kasatkina battled past Emma Raducanu to reach the 2nd-round of the AGEL Open 2022 on Tuesday, while Belinda Bencic, the 6th seed, needed 3 sets to get past qualifier Eugenie Bouchard but Jelena Ostapenko, the No 8 seed, was dispatched in straight sets by Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Every coach comes in with a different mindset, a different way of wanting to play and a different way of teaching. And to me that would be totally confusing. It would be disruptive before it became effective. But I also feel that the pressure that she’s been put under has just been immense. For me, the happiest years of my career were when I was learning the game. Sue Barker
Kasatkina, who was playing her first match since losing in the 1st-round of the US Open, showed no sign of rust in the high-quality match with Raducanu, the British No 1, in which she prevailed, 7-5 6-4, after an hour and 31 minutes.
Raducanu was forced to retire with a left glute injury during her semi-final against Ostapenko at the Korea Open some 10 days ago, but there was no sign of it on Tuesday when she produced some fine passages of play against the Russian, ranked 11 in the world and one of the game’s best defenders, after a recovering from a sluggish start.
The Briton led 3-2 in the first set, and looked to be applying pressure until Kasatkina broke through to move ahead 5-4 and, although Raducanu responded well with a break of her own, she then dropped serve again, and, this time, the Russian clinched the tight opening set.
The second proved equally competitive, but Raducanu snatched at several shots in a poor service game to drop her serve at 2-2, and was unable to get back on level terms from there and, although she struck 7 more winners than Kasatkina, 27 to 17, her unforced error count proved costly as she offered up 12 more than the Russian, and struggled to make an impact on her service games.
In fact, Kasatkina lost just 8 points in her 5 service games in the second set.
“This tournament is so tough, when you see the list of the players playing here,” Kasatkina said in her on-court interview. “Whoever you’ve got is a very tough opponent, so you have to be really focused and be ready from the first point, the first match, the first game.
“I’m happy with my performance today and really excited for the next one.”
Kasatkina and will next face Ekaterina Alexandrova in an all-Russian 2nd-round contest.
19-year-old Raducanu can console herself that she is becoming more comfortable on the WTA Tour with each passing match, and, according to former British No 1 Sue Barker, resolving her coaching arrangements needs to be a priority.
“I feel she needs one person that she really trusts and believes in,” Barker said in an interview with The Telegraph. “Every coach comes in with a different mindset, a different way of wanting to play and a different way of teaching.
“And to me that would be totally confusing. It would be disruptive before it became effective. But I also feel that the pressure that she’s been put under has just been immense.
“For me, the happiest years of my career were when I was learning the game.
“Even though I was writing my little sad letters from America, I remember my big wins: beating Margaret Court and Evonne [Goolagong] and then playing Chrissie [Evert] in the final at Madison Square Garden.
“Taking on the people I’d watched at Wimbledon, I felt like I’d arrived, you know? But I’d also been building up gradually. Whereas Emma won a major in the fifth tournament she played. So she missed out on the fun things.
“She’s got the game and she’s shown she’s got the mindset and physically she’s fabulous.
“I mean, I don’t know about the injuries and what’s happening with those, but she got through the US Open from qualifying.
“I just feel that she’s got all the attributes. Now she’s got to learn how to win and maybe how to enjoy it.”
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that Amazon Prime Video is reinvesting a seven-figure sum it received from sharing its broadcast of Emma Raducanu’s US Open triumph to help boost girls’ participation in tennis.
The streaming platform had exclusive rights to the US Open last year, but allowed Channel 4 to use its feed to show Raducanu’s final against Leylah Fernandez on free-to-air TV.
Prime Video vowed to put the money it received back into tennis and has now announced, in partnership with the LTA, a two-year programme to train coaches across Great Britain to deliver lessons and guidance specifically designed for girls.
Bencic, the Olympic champion from Switzerland, rallied to eliminate former Top 5 Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, 6-7(7) 6-1, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus upset Ostapenko, 6-2 6-2.
On rankings alone, the World No 14 against the No 506 should have been a shoe-in but in reality this was a duel between two former Top 5 players, with the reigning Olympic Gold medalist resuming a rivalry that dates back to juniors against the former Wimbledon finalist.
The match proved to be worthy of top billing as Bencic needed all of her skills to fend off Bouchard in 2 hours and 39 minutes, having her hands full from the get-go.
Bouchard, who qualified for the main draw and is playing just her 5th event of the year as she returns from injury, held 3 set points, all of which were saved by Bencic before the Swiss created her own at 7-6 in the first-set tiebreak.
The Canadian, though, got to 7-7 with a backhand crosscourt winner and, after a netted return by Bencic at 8-7, Bouchard was one set away from her first Top 20 win in over 5 years.
Bencic produced the form that helped her triumph at the Olympics last year in the second, racing through it in half an hour, and a break for 3-2 in the decider put her ahead, but Bouchard continued to match her with sterling angled winners.
The Canadian held two break points at 5-4, which Bencic swatted away and, after a series of exceptional rallies in the final moments, the Swiss converted her 2nd match point with one final groundstroke that found the baseline.
Bouchard finished the match with 6 aces to Bencic’s 2, but the Canadian was 1-for-4 on break points, while the Swiss converted 4 of her 12 break points.
Elsewhere, Sasnovich, the World No 31, notched her first win over Ostapenko, the 2017 Roland Garros champion, with a 1-hour and 13-minute upset.
Sasnovich had lost all 4 of her previous meetings against the World No 16, but she won 60 percent of points returning Ostapenko’s first serve on her way to victory.
It marks Sasnovich’s 3rd Top 20 win of the season, with her previous two coming in back-to-back wins against Raducanu and Angelique Kerber en route to the Round of 16 at Roland Garros.
Sasnovich will next meet another Grand Slam titlist, when she faces reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the Round of 16.
American qualifiers Alycia Parks and Catherine McNally also both advanced, the former upsetting Czech Karolina Pliskova, 6-0 7-6(3), while the latter eased past Anna Blinkova from Russia, 6-1 6-2, at the indoor hard court event in the Czech eastern city of Ostrava.