Emma Raducanu took to the WTA Tour doubles court for the first time in her fledgling career, and while she and her partner, fellow teenager Clara Tauson, were somewhat mauled by the No 3 seeds, Czech Lucie Hradecka & Monica Niculescu from Romania, the pair clearly enjoyed their debut outing together at the Citi Open in Washington, DC, where they chatted happily to each other on the changeovers with broad smiles.
Raducanu & Tauson, both 19, fell 6-4 6-1 to the way-more experienced team in 71 minutes in a rather one-sided affair.
The defending US Open champion and her Danish counterpart failed to put any points on the scoreboard and quickly trailed 0-3 after just 10 minutes, but they finally were able to claim a break to win the 5th game, and settled into a more comfortable partnership as they grabbed two on the trot to narrow the gap.
It was a short-lived response, though, as Hradecka & Niculescu easily outmatched their opponents, taking the first set at their 3rd chance when the Romanian’s forehand sped past the outstretched racket of a hapless Raducanu.
A better start to the second saw Raducanu & Tauson draw things level at a game apiece before their more experienced opponents’ ran away with the match, garnering a break in the 4th game and sealing it all with a Niculescu volley.
It may have been a disappointing experience for the British No 1, but a valuable one, nevertheless, because top flight doubles play helps to hone singles play as many a top player will testify.
Meanwhile, Raducanu has come into some flack over her choice of coach for the North American swing as she prepares to take on American qualifier Louisa Chirico at the Citi Open on Tuesday with the aid of Dmitry Tursunov.
It has emerged, though, that Raducanu is working with Russian-born Tursunov on a trial basis in Washington, but MP Chris Bryant is not thrilled about the World No 10 hiring a Russian coach as he fears Russia will use it for their propaganda.
In April, Wimbledon banned Russian and Belarusian from competing at The Championships over the fears that Russia would use potential success of their players for their propaganda.
Bryant, a Labour MP, is urging Raducanu to reconsider her choice.
“The Kremlin will portray this as a PR coup and an indication that the UK doesn’t really care about the war in Ukraine, so it’ll be a real shame if Emma Raducanu goes ahead with this,” Bryant told The Telegraph. “I urge her to think again and, at the very least, to condemn Putin’s barbaric war.”
The comments Bryant made about Raducanu’s decision to hire Tursunov have certainly been noticed in Russia, with Vladimir Kornilov of RIA Novosti describing them as a ‘Russophobia’.
“Now, it turns out that if she doesn’t change her mind, at the very least, she will have to condemn publicly ‘Putin’s barbaric war’, Kornilov said. “Now, she is preparing to go with him to a tournament somewhere, but that’s it, they are harassing her and she’ll have to get rid of him.
“Do you understand the extent of their paranoia and outright Russophobia in the West?”
On Sunday, Ben Rothenberg tweeted: “Emma Raducanu says this week (and last week) with coach Dmitry Tursunov is on a trial basis, and won’t be continuous; she said Tursunov already has preexisting commitments for Toronto next week.”
Raducanu is getting criticised on social media for not settling on a more permanent coaching arrangement as she has struggled for form since the start of the year and is yet to win 3 consecutive matches on the WTA Tour.
After struggling with injury and illness, and a disappointing early loss at Wimbledon, her return to action for the first time against Chirico is the focus of much attention as she tries to build towards her title defence in New York.
Raducanu says it was always going to tricky playing in her first full season on the WTA Tour after going from being an unknown teenager to US Open champion.
“This year was always going to be pretty tricky, trying to find my feet at this sort of level,” she told reporters at the Citi Open. “I skipped every stage basically.
“I went from playing a few [ITF] 25s to playing the Top 10 [in WTA 250s, 500s and 1000s], playing the slams and everything.
“Still managed to win a round or two in some bigger events. I’m quite proud of myself in that way.
“I’ve learnt that I’m pretty resilient. I’ve pretty much been knocked down every single week literally in front of everyone, get back up every single time.
“It’s just a fun learning experience for me.”
Raducanu caught most tennis pundits by surprise last week when it emerged that she was working with former top 20 player Tursunov ahead of the North American hard-court swing.
Tursunov, who moved to the United States at the age of 12 and now and is based in California, had success in recent years as he mentored Anett Kontaveit of Estonia when she reached a career-high of No 2 in the WTA Rankings earlier in 2022.
Raducanu’s decision to partner with Tursunov raised eyebrows because of his nationality after Kontaveit admitted in June that she had split from the Russian as he was not able to travel around the world due to the current restrictions.
In April, the British No 1 split with Torben Beltz, her 3rd mentor in just under a year, and she has been working with coaches from the LTA on an interim basis since.