Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps Emma Raducanu’s sudden exit in Indian Wells.
When they say that revenge is a dish best served cold, they mean that revenge is most effective when it’s unexpected.
Well, you could probably say that Emma Raducanu is full today. Because all appearances point to her having been served quite a helping full of cold food last week in Indian Wells.
Here’s the part where you throw your hands up in the air and ask us just what it is we’re talking about. You wouldn’t be wrong. You’ll forgive the odd and awkward opening, but what we’re basically saying is that Aliaksandra Sasnovich beat the US Open champion 6-2 and 6-4 in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open. It felt like all of women’s tennis avenging their losses at the US Open and soundly beating Raducanu.
And we’re here to talk about it.
A tough return to tennis
We’re not sure if you’ve heard, but it’s been quite a few whirlwind weeks for the defending US Open champion. She won the whole dang thing in Flushing Meadows, for one thing! That in and of itself would be big for someone like Novak Djokovic, let alone an 18-year-old who had barely ever played on the WTA Tour before she caught fire for two weeks.
Following the US Open win, the British player split from the coach, Andrew Richardson, who had guided her to the major title. She was, she said, in no rush to appoint a new coach for the sake of appointing one, but specified that she wanted someone with experience at the highest level.
Since she was in no rush, Raducanu arrived in Indian Wells at the 2021 BNP Paribas Open with no coach.
She leaves the California desert with still no coach and, now, having lost a match.
The match in question, coming in the first round against the 27-year-old Sasnovich, was not close at all. The No. 100-ranked Belarusian won 13 more points, doubled up the British player in games won and limited Raducanu to merely 29 per cent of points won on her second serve.
Let’s look back at the US Open
In short, this is, erm, not good. This first round match unfolded more or less exactly like the opposite of all seven matches that Raducanu played—and won—in Flushing Meadows. In New York, Raducanu was imperial and never really let anyone sink their teeth in their matches.
There are two ways to look at the youngster’s triumph in New York. Some look at it as the sign of great and better things to come for a young woman full of potential. Some look at it as someone who took women’s tennis by storm and who overwhelmed all competitors to win the ultimate prize.
On the other hand, some feel like maybe Raducanu got lucky. That maybe she played and beat a handful of players who shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Some feel like the youngster let finalist Leylah Fernandez do all the hard work before winning the title against a tired opponent.
While it’s definitely true that Raducanu made the most of what was a weak draw and rode the hottest of hot streaks, let’s recognize that she made history and became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title in the sport’s history. She’s definitely not the first qualifier to play inspired tennis and ride a hot streak, but somehow no one had ever accomplished what she did. That’s why her win was and is a big deal.
It’s not just that she won the US Open, it’s that she did something that literally no one had ever done.
Are there Indian Wells lessons for the British?
Ultimately, this BNP Paribas Open loss may end up being a blessing. The fact that Raducanu is looking for a new head coach means that somewhere inside of her, she knows and understands that she’s not going to rise to victory every time just like she did in New York. The fact that she’s looking for a new coach means that she’s got her sights set on bigger and better things than merely just the one Grand Slam title.
Whenever that new coach joins her team, there’s one Indian Wells match that she’ll likely want to discuss.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG