Emma Raducanu hopes the experience and positivity of her new coach Torben Beltz can help her build on a remarkable breakthrough season, which ended with defeat by qualifier Wang Xinyu in Austria.
The US Open champion was the top seed at a WTA Tour event for the first time at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz having won her first matches on the main circuit only two weeks ago but she could not add to that here, losing 6-1 6-7 (0) 7-5 to 106th-ranked Wang at the TipsArena.
Raducanu had hoped to keep the identity of her new coach secret for a little while longer but it emerged on Tuesday that she will be guided through pre-season and into 2022 by 44-year-old Beltz, who is best known as the long-time mentor of three-time grand slam champion Angelique Kerber.
Kerber announced on Monday that she and Beltz had split for a third time, and Raducanu said: “You guys cracked it. It’s obviously a great privilege to be working with such an experienced coach.
“I’m definitely very excited to work with him throughout the pre-season and into next year. I’m feeling excited about all the work that is to come.
“I think he brings a lot of experience. Obviously he’s worked with Kerber, who’s such a great player and has done extremely well, won three slams. I think that experience definitely helps with someone as inexperienced as me.
“He can help guide me through, which I feel really confident about, and also he’s a really positive, cheerful guy who brings great energy to the team so I think that’s also important when you’re travelling on the road for quite a long time on the tour.”
This was another example that, despite being a grand slam champion, Raducanu is first and foremost a rookie at the top level and a player who still has a lot of steps to take and lessons to learn.
Twenty-year-old Chinese Wang, ranked 106 but on the rise, had already won three matches in Linz and that showed in the first set, which she powered through with six games in a row.
Raducanu, who struggled with illness after reaching the quarter-finals of the Transylvania Open at the end of last month, dug in well in the second set and played a flawless tie-break but Wang was not disheartened and raised her level again in the decider.
Raducanu took a medical time-out after suffering a hip spasm as she was broken for 5-4 and she saved two match points before breaking back, but Wang broke again and served out the victory after two hours and 36 minutes.
“I thought it was a really high-level match,” said Raducanu. “I thought Xinyu played extremely well, especially in that first set and I’m proud of the way I fought to try to get back into the match.
“Everything was going her way and she was playing extremely well so a lot of credit to her for keeping that level out there on the court. In the third I had a hip spasm in the first point of that game and from there I was just fighting to try to stay in it.”
The British number one, meanwhile, said she was unaware of comments by England rugby head coach Eddie Jones that she had become distracted by fame following her New York triumph, but is adamant that will not happen.
“I think many people are going to have opinions of me and what I’m doing but I just know I’m staying focused with a small circle around me and I definitely have my parents, who would 100 per cent let me know if I was getting swayed,” she said.
Raducanu will now take a well-earned break – and perhaps a long overdue holiday – before knuckling down again for a first pre-season training block with Beltz.
“I haven’t been on a holiday for seven years so it would be nice to have the opportunity to go somewhere,” said the teenager. “That was a long weekend to Switzerland with my parents. I’m hoping to make it a little bit longer than that.”
Asked to sum up her incredible year in one word, Raducanu said with a smile: “A surprise.”
She added: “I think I’m just going to switch off completely and then, when I’m back in pre-season, I’m super hungry and motivated to do better.”
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