Emma Raducanu’s defeat on her return to action will be swiftly forgotten – providing lessons from the whole experience are genuinely learned.
The post-US Open period was always going to be difficult for an 18-year-old confronted by an unprecedented avalanche of attention. There was no harm in accepting a few red carpet invitations, and it would be churlish to say otherwise.
The issues involving the more prosaic business of the tennis set-up around her are of more concern, and she was not well-equipped to tackle with a tournament that would always be uniquely demanding. The sight of security guards shadowing her everywhere was an indication of her new-found status.
Emma Raducanu put out a call for help as she finds herself stuck in her search for a coach
The 18-year-old came crashing back down to earth with a first round exit at Indian Wells
In the wake of a 6-2, 6-4 defeat at the BNP Paribas Open against Aleksandria Sasnovich, who played far better than her ranking of 100, Raducanu suggested that she was still in some confusion about her coaching situation.
Not only was the departed Andrew Richardson not here, neither was her physio Will Herbert, another key component of the team which helped her to glory in New York.
LTA national women’s coach Jeremy Bates stepped in to help out for the build-up, but he was always going to depart this weekend to attend to other duties, including his work with Katie Boulter.
If Raducanu had won she would have played 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep. So she would have been up against a childhood idol in a high profile match with only the representative of her management company, Chris Helliar, and temporary hitting partner, American Raymond Sarmiento, in her corner.
Raducanu is missing many of her inner circle that helped her to victory at the US Open
The Brit was not joking in a press conference when she put out a call for experienced coaches
That is hardly an ideal state of affairs, even for someone who has shown an admirable tendency not to be over-reliant on coaches.
As during her US Open triumph, Raducanu answered questions later with the same good grace and maturity, but she admitted she is unsure of the direction to go with her coaching situation.
‘I would love to have someone with great experience right now by my side so if any experienced coaches are out there looking, you know where to find me,’ she said with a wry smile. ‘So I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t know what’s going to happen next but I’m sure my team and and everyone will try and find a solution. I wasn’t joking. If anyone knows any experienced coaches…’
She was able to rationalise a defeat which occurred in very different playing conditions to New York, on an extremely slow court which seemed to flummox her.
Referring to the decision not re-engage Richardson after Flushing Meadows (he was happy to continue), she said: ‘ I’m looking for someone more experienced and I decided to, we decided to, end it after the US Open and that was it.
‘I don’t think it affected me because I didn’t really look up at the box too often. I think that what happened tonight was just down to experience. I’ve got a very long future ahead of me, potentially 15, 20 years in the game. My priority is that longevity and I’m at the very start.
Her win at the US Open was remarkable but she still elected to split with Andrew Richardson
Richardson (third right) has left a void and Raducanu needs to get her decision right for 2022
‘So I just need to cut myself slack. I’m in a good place mentally. I’m looking at it from a big picture terms. This is going to be very small in the long term.’
The reasons for Herbert’s absence were not immediately clear, but she affirmed she hopes to work with him in future.
Former world No 1 Lindsay Davenport, commentating for the in-house radio at Indian Wells, emphasised that stability is the key in Raducanu’s position.
‘Something needs to change because she needs a solid, stable camp and people she can rely on and depend on,’ said the American. ‘ And also to open up to. It’s not easy to open up to different people. Not really used to seeing those people – you just want a fixture.’
Aside from the environment Sasnovich was different from some opponents in New York in that she refused to lie down, even after her level dipped early in the second set and the British player edged ahead for 4-2. The Belarusian remained highly competitive throughout and her plan to stand in to receive second serve in these sluggish conditions suggested she had done her homework.
Keeping Richardson would have given stability, which former players think Raducanu needs
This is now part of the deal for the US Open champion – coaches and other players have an increasing body of video evidence to examine for weaknesses.
In some ways this felt like Raducanu’s ‘Welcome to the Tour’ moment.
She will now fly home and pledged that she will look at immediate future plans ‘with a clear head’.
Everything suggests she is resourceful enough to overcome the challenges in time.
She is entered to play in the more favourable environment of indoor hard court events, in Moscow, Romania and the Austrian city of Linz. It must be uncertain that she will play all three, and the possibility of a total reset might be tempting ahead of next season.