Emma Raducanu’s French Open journey ends at hands of Aliaksandra Sasnovich onslaught

Despite taking the opening set Raducanu was hit off the court by Sasnovich as the British No 1 suffered a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 defeat

<p>Emma Raducanu was taken down in three sets </p>

Emma Raducanu was taken down in three sets

A barrage of winners from Aliaksandra Sasnovich left Emma Raducanu looking for answers and her French Open journey over before it felt like it had really begun. The one-sided look of the 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 scoreline rather skews the nature of what was a much closer match over two hours on Court Suzanne Lenglen, but it does capture the essence that when Sasnovich hit her stride and the forehand winners flowed, there was little Raducanu could do to keep up.

Raducanu’s US Open triumph has been followed by second-round exits at her next two grand slam appearances. Here, she was faced by an inspired Sasnovich, the same opponent who took Raducanu down at Indian Wells last October in her first match as US Open champion. There were signs of the experience and lessons Raducanu has gained on the tour since then, particularly as she made a bright start. But what was evident, once again, is the clear depth in the women’s draw and the perils of catching an opponent as they themselves are catching fire.

Sasnovich, whose streaky play has often been a source of frustration and explains her ranking of 47 in the world, had unsettled Raducanu as her cross-court forehand grew into a commanding and unstoppable weapon during the second set. Raducanu, who dropped the first set and was a break down to Linda Noskova in the opening round, found herself on more familiar ground as she struck to take the lead but was unable to match Sasnovich’s hitting as she swung for the corners.

There was a lot to admire about the opening set. It quickly became apparent that this second-round match would be a contest between Sasnovich’s power and top-spin and Raducanu’s ability to move around the court and generate angles. As Raducanu’s backhand picked up it was matched by the tenacity of her return game, as she quickly took two breaks of serve to establish a lead.

Sasnovich was unmoved and instead brought more aggression and variety to her game. To the forehand, the 28-year-old added a devilish backhand drop-shot that Raducanu was unable to read, despite it being called up several times throughout the match. The momentum had swung in her direction and the second set was quickly wrapped up.

This was Raducanu’s French Open debut on what was always going to be her weakest surface but if there are criticisms of the 19-year-old here it would be that her game has not yet developed the variety required to answer the testing questions which are now becoming asked of her by opponents. The groundstrokes and returning game aside, she does not carry the same array of weapons, particularly when the first serve isn’t landing.

Raducanu lost her momentum after taking the opening set

Raducanu’s return, itself such an important shot, was not able create the same sense of doubt in Sasnovich’s game even as tight and awkward shots appeared, which proved crucial in an epic 12-minute game early in the decider as the Belarusian saved five break-point opportunities.

It was the chance perhaps for Raducanu to wrestle back control and as Sasnovich steadied, the forehand continued to pound the lines with regularity. It was the final turning point as the Belarusian produced the shots and winners to out-angle Raducanu. By the end of play Sasnovich had racked up 45 of them to Raducanu’s 17.

This did not appear to be a question of physicality, despite a lot of the build-up to the match being dominated by talk of injury niggles, which was the source of her Australian Open exit at the hands of Danka Kovinic. But as Raducanu now heads to Wimbledon, returning for the first time since last summer’s breakthrough, she does so not only as a grand slam champion, but as a player the rest of the field will be confident they can attack.

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