Amid all the hype and in the face of defeat, Emma Raducanu dismissed any notion that she was feeling pressure after winning the US Open last month.
Playing at night is always going to be different. I haven't had much experience with night matches. I've only played one before, on Ashe. I'm still very, very new to the tour. I think that experience just comes from playing week in, week out and experiencing all these different things. 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 just have more experienced banked. Emma Raducanu
“I think it’s going to take me time to adjust really to what’s going on,” she said after her 6-2 6-4 loss to Aliaksandra Sasnovich from Belarus. “I’m still so new to everything.
“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.
“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.”
Sasnovich ended Raducanu’s 10-match winning streak on Friday night in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, while Leylah Fernandez, Petra Kvitova, and Jessica Pegula all advanced in straight sets.
Ranked 100, 27-year old Sasnovich is an experienced tour veteran who has notched up 15 top 20 wins in her career.
“I saw a few matches of her when she played US Open, and Wimbledon as well,” Sasnovich said after her win. “She’s really a talented girl.
“She has a strong forehand, backhand. She tries to be always aggressive.
“It was a really good match for me. I play really well. I know she just won US Open. I lost there in the first round. So a little bit different. But I tried to go on court, I tried to enjoy.
“I did everything right and I’m happy with the result, of course.”
Raducanu, now ranked 22, had reeled off 20 consecutive sets in New York through qualifying and the main draw to become the first British woman to win a major since Virginia Wade in 1977, while Sasnovich, who reached a career-high No 30 in 2018, had just one Top 50 victory in a completed match this season.
The teenage Brit started the match right where she left off in New York, coolly reeling off the first 6 points with clean, first-strike tennis, but Sasnovich weathered the storm and was the first to break for a 3-1 lead before striking again for 5-2 lead, closing the opening set after 30 minutes.
Sasnovich broke for a 3rd time after a prolonged game at the start of the second, but Raducanu dug in and refused to let the Belarusian run away with the momentum, earning her first break point of the match in the very next game, and levelling at 1-1.
Raducanu continued to put pressure on the Sasnovich serve, and broke her again to love for 4-2, but her lead was short-lived and she played a poor game to go down 0-40, doing well to find two big first serves to close the gap but then netting an easy backhand to hand back her hard-earned advantage.
At this level, margins are tight and Sasnovich seized the moment, breaking Raducanu for a 5th time for 5-4 and then serving out the match after 1 hour and 25 minutes.
While Sasnovich won 76.2% of her second serve return points, and Raducanu 57.1% of hers, the Belarusian’s ability to pressure the Brit’s serve earned her 11 break points for the match, while the 18-year old only generated 5.
Sasnovich also finished the match as the cleaner player off the ground, firing 17 winners to just 19 unforced errors, while Raducanu hit 15 winners to 31 miscues.
The California desert has confounded even the most accomplished tour veterans over time, and Raducanu has cautioned everyone to pay heed to her lack of experience as she forges ahead with her budding career.
“Playing at night is always going to be different,” Raducanu admitted after the match. “I haven’t had much experience with night matches. I’ve only played one before, on Ashe.
“I’m still very, very new to the tour. I think that experience just comes from playing week in, week out and experiencing all these different things.
“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 just have more experienced banked.”
When asked what made the difference in the second set, Raducanu again cited the experience gap.
“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.
“I didn’t go in there putting any pressure on myself because, in my mind, I’m so inexperienced that all these, I’m just taking it all in,” Raducanu added.
“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 an extremely great match. You could tell she’s more experienced than me. She went out there and executed her game plan better than I did. She deserved to win that.”
Raducanu, who is currently entered in Cluj-Napoca the week after Indian Wells and then the Kremlin Cup in Moscow to finish the season, said she will decide on her plans for the remainder of the season when she returns home.
Earlier in the week, the 18-year old from Bromley delighted her fans when she gave them another glimpse of her multilingual skills by giving a brief interview in Romanian.
Her father is Romanian, while her mother hails from China, and she often visits both countries and speaks both languages.
“My grandma, Mamiya, still lives in central Bucharest,” she said. “I go back a couple of times a year, stay with her, see her.
“It’s really nice. I love the food, to be honest. I mean, the food is unbelievable. And my grandma’s cooking is also something special. I do have ties to Bucharest.”
Raducanu is now looking forward to playing the Transylvania Open in Cluj-Napoca for the first time from 25-31 October.
The World No 22 also gave an interview in fluent Mandarin shortly after her US Open success in September.
“I can’t wait to come and play in China next year,” she told China Daily. “I want to say thank you for all the support.
“My mum is from north east China. I often go there to see family members, such as my grandma.”
Earlier in the day at Indian Wells, US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez made her main draw debut, defeating France’s Alizé Cornet, 6-2 6-3, to advance to the third round, where she will face the 9th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova from Russia.
Seeded 23, the Canadian played unrelenting tennis to reel off the first 5 games before Cornet pulled back two games.
Playing her first match since New York but showing no signs of rust, Fernandez fired 24 winners to 16 unforced errors during her desert outing.
“It does give me a lot of confidence because Alizé, she’s a very tough opponent,” Fernandez said. “I’ve watched her play on tour.
“She fights for every point. I’ve practiced with her, too. We’ve had some tough practice matches. I knew that today was going to be hard.
“I’m just glad I was able to get the win. It gives me confidence moving forward.”
Petra Kvitova set up showdown with Victoria Azarenka after the No 7 seed from the Czech Republic scored a 6-2 6-2 win over Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands.
In the first meeting between the two veteran left-handers, Kvitova weathered a closely-contested patch early in the second set to earn a comprehensive victory over the World No 68 in an hour and 16 minutes.
Kvitova ’s next opponent is Azarenka, the No 27 seed from Belarus, who led 7-5, 3-0 when Magda Linette from Poland retired from her match with a leg injury.
American Jessica Pegula, the 19th seed, faced compatriot Sloane Stephens in her opener, and dominated behind her serve to win, 6-2 6-3.
Pegula, who won 88% of her first serves and 79% of her second deliveries to keep Stephens’ dangerous return game at bay, did not face a break point in the match.
Describing her mindset as she enters the season homestretch, Pegula joked that she is barely holding it together.
“I’m currently, like, gluing my freaking nails on with super glue right now, that’s where I’m at honestly,” Pegula said. “I just spilled stuff on my shirt.
“This is where I’m at. Last tournament of the year, besides Billie Jean King Cup, I’m starting to lose it.
“No, I had a little, kind of, not break, but in between US Open and Chicago, I got to reset a little bit.
“Played a couple of good matches there. Lost to Ons [Jabeur], who has been playing really well. Lost to her in three sets. I came in here feeling pretty confident.
“I’m getting married on the 22nd. Honestly, I just want to compete really well and kind of go day by day. Really just not give in, just fight, really tough it out.”