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Raducanu wins first set but loses second and third in one-sided fashion
Sasnovich again proves too strong for Brit, having also beaten her at Indian Wells last October
For the second grand slam running, Emma Raducanu suffered a three-set exit in the second round. It was a harsh lesson for a woman who fought like crazy, but simply didn’t have the equipment to deal with Aliaksandra Sasnovich – her devastating Belarusian opponent.
After taking an early lead, Raducanu completely lost control of the match amidst a blitz of 15 Sasnovich winners in 30 points. She was like a fire-fighter who thought she had successfully corralled a small forest blaze, only for a sudden gust to whip up a red-hot inferno.
That rush of intensity from Sasnovich arrived early in the second set. Raducanu’s 6-3 advantage was soon turned on its head, becoming a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 hammering. It was fortunate, in the circumstances, that she has become more philosophical about her setbacks.
“I think before I would let the losses affect me more than I am right now,” Raducanu told reporters at a surprisingly upbeat press conference. “Now I just look at everything as a lesson, and I know exactly where I went wrong, where I can improve, where other people are better than me.”
The one thing in her favour is time. At just 19, Raducanu is still experiencing her first clay-court swing. This explains why most of the questions on Wednesday were sympathetic, focusing on her learning curve or her upcoming grass-court plans rather than the speed with which her advantage evaporated. Johanna Konta, who often faced stern interrogations after clay-court reverses, would surely have looked on enviously.
But while Raducanu might have bags of time left in her career, Sasnovich was the one with time on the ball. This is the challenge for Raducanu in these slow conditions: how to pressurise opponents so that they can’t step in and drive the high winner tallies that we saw in both her matches this week. On Monday, 17-year-old Linda Noskova belted 48 winners to Raducanu’s 24, but still lost the match. On Wednesday, the differential was even more dramatic: 45 for Sasnovich, just 17 for Raducanu.
How could this happen to the woman who outpunched all her opponents during September’s US Open? The answer is that we are playing a completely different kind of tennis. On those slick, true-bouncing courts in New York, Raducanu could stand on the baseline or even just inside, taking the ball early and banging it low over the net in the manner she learned on the lightning-fast indoor courts of Bromley Tennis Centre.
On Paris’ brick dust, however, you have to step back a few steps and flight the ball with more loop and top-spin. It’s like playing on shifting sands, and the bounce is too unpredictable to regularly bang winners on the half-volley as Raducanu did last autumn.
As a result, she is still feeling her way on all fronts: tactically, technically and physically. In terms of duration, too, the matches have been very different to the 70-minute blow-outs we remember from her first grand-slam title. She went for 2hr 37min against Noskova and 2hr 4min against Sasnovich
On Wednesday, Raducanu’s energy levels seemed to drop after that 47-minute first set, which ought to be a concern for her fitness trainers. “Physically I just got a little bit tired,” she said. “But nothing out of the regular. You will feel your legs playing a three-set match on clay. It is definitely positive that I'm coming out of this match feeling pretty good physically.”
When you’re still a greenhorn on the tennis circuit, red clay is rarely your friend. This is a brutal surface, a visceral test of heart and strength, and Raducanu’s naivety was exposed here – even if she did her utmost to find a solution.
It was a significant achievement that Radcuanu stole the first set against the head, despite being consistently pushed back by Sasnovich’s heavier groundstrokes. Almost a conjuring trick, in fact, given her own lack of attacking options on this surface.
On another day, Sasnovich could easily have become frustrated and distracted by her own failure to convert her chances. Instead, she sat down at the end of the first set and – with the benefit of a moment of calm – realised that she was still the one with the weapons.
Specifically, Sasnovich has a phenomenally accurate drop shot which she can deploy with little warning – a vital option on the clay, which Raducanu barely uses.
And then there was the mighty Sasnovich forehand, which also inflicted enormous damage. When she loosens up mentally, she can send the ball screaming through the court like a Ferrari. Whereas Raducanu’s forehand was more of a milk float on Wednesday, landing in the middle of the court with little bite or penetration and allowing Sasnovich the luxury of time.
“I think that I definitely got stronger as the clay season went on,” said Raducanu afterwards. “It just takes a lot more to win the point on this surface, and [when] you hit a ball flat, it doesn't really do that much. I definitely learnt when to use the shape [loop] and stuff. But now it's going to be really nice to go home and play on home turf, on the home grass.”
Ahead of Karen Khachanov match Cameron Norrie just thankful not to be facing Rafa Nadal
By Simon Briggs
“It’s nice not to face Rafa,” said Cameron Norrie, the British No 1, whose luck at the grand slams has been particularly cruel of late.
The comment was a reflection on Norrie’s next opponent in Paris. Karen Khachanov, the 21st seed, is a fine player, but not as much of a legend as the men he is used to facing at this stage.
Last season, the admirably consistent Norrie reached the third round of three of the four slams. He was rewarded with two matches against Nadal and one – at Wimbledon no less – against Roger Federer. Despite his best efforts, he came away with a combined tally of just a single set.
Had Norrie walked under a ladder, or crossed the path of a black cat? The cosmos seemed determined to keep him from one of his stated goals for 2021: a run to the second week of a major.
Australia in January was another disappointment, but Norrie cruised past qualifier Jason Kubler on Wednesday in straight sets to set up the third-round meeting with Khachanov. This looks promising, because he has beaten Khachanov three times in their five previous encounters, including two out of two on clay.
“I'll take that every day of the week, being in this position and being the higher seed,” said Norrie. “At the end of the day you have to deal with both situations. It's always nice going into the match being the underdog. If you lose, it's all right. But for the most part, in the last couple years I have done well being the favourite. It's a different kind of pressure.
“I'm exactly where I want to be,” added Norrie, who has yet to drop a set after overwhelming French qualifier Manuel Guinard in the first round.
Emma Raducanu vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich, as it happened:
That's all for our live coverage
... but stick with us, as we'll have an in-depth report on the match to come.
Disappointment for Raducanu
— LTA (@the_LTA) May 25, 2022
Big milestone for Sasnovich
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) May 25, 2022
Sasnovich says Raducanu 'a great player'
"I love the French public and I hope next time they will support me," Sasnovich laughs.
"I heard that for Emma they were more [behind her] because she's a Grand Slam champion. She's a great player."
Sasnovich pleased with her performance
"I was happy with the way I played," she says. "I didn't even think that I could win, I just played point-by-point so when I got the winner I was happy.
"I tried to play more aggressive I think and, mentally, I was ready, you know, to play point-by-point, like I said."
GAME, SET, MATCH
Raducanu refuses to go quietly, winning a couple of spirited rallies. Nonetheless, Sasnovich is relentless and seals victory with a lightning shot down the line.
Raducanu* 6-3, 1-6, 1-5 Sasnovich (*denotes server)
There can only be one winner now. Sasnovich earns a break point and, after a brief rally, Raducanu sends a return beyond the baseline.
Raducanu 6-3, 1-6, 1-4 Sasnovich* (*denotes server)
Sasnovich holds serve in ominous style. Can Raducanu turn this around somehow?
Raducanu* 6-3, 1-6, 1-3 Sasnovich (*denotes server)
That could be decisive.
Raducanu looks well-placed to hold but, slowly, inexorably, Sasnovich grinds her way to break point. She takes it, leaving Raducanu in a very precarious position indeed.
Raducanu 6-3, 1-6, 1-2 Sasnovich* (*denotes server)
It's much better from Raducanu, who seems to have found her feet again.
The pair exchange points before Sasnovich leaves a driven shot to the baseline which, as it turns out, is in. Sasnovich produces a big winner, but then sends the game to deuce with a wild miss. Raducanu wins a point at the net and, suddenly, she has the chance to break. It goes begging after she fluffs a return down the line and Sasnovich takes advantage, but Raducanu forces another deuce.
Raducanu wins four further break points, but Sasnovich defends all four in steely fashion. She finally seals the game after forcing Raducanu into a couple of miscues.
Raducanu* 6-3, 1-6, 1-1 Sasnovich (*denotes server)
Sasnovich ups the pressure on Raducanu, winning the first two points. The Brit hauls it back to 30-30 with a volleyed winner at the net, but Sasnovich nabs a break point.
Raducanu covers her face with her hands, but doesn't give up. Sasnovich squanders the break, then misjudges a drop shot and hands Raducanu the game with a return which ripples the net.
Third set: Raducanu 6-3, 1-6, 0-1 Sasnovich* (*denotes server)
Raducanu shows her fighting spirit, winning a couple of points and making Sasnovich uncomfortable.
The Belarusian holds firm, however, winning her first service game of the third set.
Raducanu has left the court
... meaning there'll be a short wait before the third and final set.
Raducanu* 6-3, 1-6 Sasnovich (*denotes server)
Sasnovich earns two set points with another crafty drop shot. Raducanu fails to delay the inevitable, driving a return into the net.
Raducanu 6-3, 1-5 Sasnovich* (*denotes server)
Sasnovich holds serve emphatically. Raducanu really needs time to regroup.
Raducanu* 6-3, 1-4 Sasnovich (*denotes server)
Raducanu looks ready to write off the second set, with Sasnovich winning another break point.
The Brit saves it with an excellent serve, then wins a couple of points on the bounce to end her four-game losing streak. This set isn't quite over yet, as it turns out.
Raducanu 6-3, 0-4 Sasnovich* (*denotes server)
Sasnovich blasts through the first two points, but Raducanu comes to the net and wins a rally at close quarters. It doesn't swing the momentum, however, with Sasnovich seeing out the game with ease.
Raducanu* 6-3, 0-3 Sasnovich (*denotes server)
Raducanu tries to steady herself in the face of an absolute onslaught from Sasnovich. The game goes to deuce and the Brit takes advantage, but fails to cinch it.
Sasnovich gets a break point, which Raducanu saves with a winner which brushes the line. Sasnovich gets a second but Raducanu repeats the trick. Raducanu earns another advantage, but Sasnovich produces an unstoppable winner before claiming a fourth break point. This time, Raducanu has no answer to a devilish drop shot and Sasnovich has a double break.
Raducanu 6-3, 0-2 Sasnovich* (*denotes server)
Sasnovich means business here. She wins her first service game of the second set to love.
Second set: Raducanu* 6-3, 0-1 Sasnovich (*denotes server)
Well, that's quite a response from Sasnovich.
The Belarusian breaks Raducanu immediately, using her drop shot to great effect before leathering a forehand beyond her opponent's reach.
Raducanu 6-3 Sasnovich* (*denotes server)
Sasnovich makes the first double fault of the match, then follows up with an unforced error. Having looked the more confident player in the opening exchanges, she suddenly seems rattled.
She pulls one back after a miss from Raducanu, but then cedes two set points. Raducanu takes her opportunity at the first time of asking, winning an extended rally with a pinpoint shot.
Raducanu* 5-3 Sasnovich (*denotes server)
Raducanu is in trouble after Sasnovich wins the first two points, the latter with a genius dink. The Brit recovers, however, thanks to a thudding forehand and a narrow miss from her opponent.
Raducanu then produces the first ace of the match to make it 40-30. She kills the game with a whipped shot down the line.
We'll be back underway in just a moment.
Raducanu 4-3 Sasnovich* (*denotes server)
It's a much simpler service game, this one, with Sasnovich winning to love.
Raducanu* 4-2 Sasnovich (*denotes server)
Raducanu starts the game strongly, but allows Sasnovich to claw her way into it. The Belarusian earns a break point with a stinging shot to the margins, but Raducanu defends it well.
At deuce, Raducanu wins a vicious rally before screaming a triumphant: "Come on!" She wraps things up after tempting Sasnovich into a shot which goes long.
Raducanu 3-2 Sasnovich* (*denotes server)
Sasnovich picks up the first couple of points, then skews a shot wide after a fizzing return from Raducanu.
Raducanu follows up with two slashed cross-court winners, giving her a first break point. She takes it, dragging Sasnovich around the court before leaving her stranded with a thumping forehand.
Raducanu* 2-2 Sasnovich (*denotes server)
Sasnovich wins a rally at the net after another smart drop shot. Raducanu battles to 40-30, but makes an unforced error at the net and the game goes to deuce.
Sasnovich wrangles the first break point of the match, then another, but Raducanu saves both. Raducanu then wins a lengthy rally with an excellent slice, Sasnovich plays a killer cross-court winner, but the Brit finally sees things out by teasing a couple of misses from her opponent.
Raducanu 1-2 Sasnovich* (*denotes server)
Sasnovich brings out the first drop shot of the match, catching Raducanu cold. She looks to be breezing through her second service game, but Raducanu digs out a couple of points before finally succumbing.
Raducanu* 1-1 Sasnovich (*denotes server)
Sasnovich drags Raducanu into a series of energetic rallies, but the Brit covers the court well and dominates her first service game.
First set: Emma Raducanu 0-1 Aliaksandra Sasnovich* (*denotes server)
Raducanu plays a couple of loose returns, then wins a point with a clever shot to the baseline. Sasnovich keeps her cool and serves out the game comfortably.
Sasnovich to serve first
Will that play into Raducanu's hands? We're about to find out.
Both players out on Court Suzanne Lenglen
... and getting their pre-match debrief from the umpire. We're about to get underway here.
Raducanu over her jitters?
"I really enjoyed my first match," Raducanu says. "It's always difficult with a first round match as there's always that element of nerves.
"The city, the fans and the crowd... the atmosphere here is definitely really involved. I like that, that they get behind any player, it's definitely way more entertaining."
Not long to go now
We're a couple of minutes away from the start of the match, so buckle up.
... that the French Open is being broadcast on Eurosport, in case you're wondering how to watch this match live.
Raducanu enjoying French Open debut, it seems
— Emma Raducanu (@EmmaRaducanu) May 23, 2022
What happened the last time Raducanu played Sasnovich?
By Uche Amako
Hello and welcome to coverage of Emma Raducanu's second round match at the French Open against Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Raducanu demonstrated her grit and determination on Monday as she overcame 17-year-old Czech qualifier Linda Noskova.
"Honestly, I have no expectations of myself. You know I am really happy to be able to be competing here after Rome," she said.
"I really fought hard to be here in this second round and I am looking forward to try to stay as long as possible."
Today she comes up against Sasnovich, who she lost to convincingly at Indian Wells last year in what was her first tournament after winning the US Open.
Injuries have disrupted Raducanu's season so far but she has been hitting the gym in an effort to increase her staying power.
"I think that it is definitely improving. One thing that I have been doing in the lead-up for this week and the whole of last week, I was doing a lot in the gym.
"A lot before practice, after practice, just keeping all the muscles fired up. It's something I probably haven't really done before, train through tournaments.
"Yeah, I am pretty pleased with how I was out there physically, and I feel really good, to be honest.
"I think definitely players kind of know more about me, and they would have seen me play more, whereas last year, maybe if I was just a random qualifier, they wouldn't have put as much research [in] or looked at me, how I would play.
"To counteract that I'm always looking to improve in all sorts of aspects. I think one was definitely physically, just to be able to last in the longer points, especially on the clay courts.
"Also just adding elements of unpredictability in whatever way that may be."
Stay with us for build-up and the latest updates from Paris.