Fernandez Moves On and Raducanu Returns to Tennis Reality at Indian Wells

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Nearly a month after Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez confronted off in maybe essentially the most sudden Grand Slam singles closing, they returned to motion as headliners.

Neither teenager had performed within the Indian Wells Tennis Garden till this yr, however they have been entrance and heart on Friday, anchoring the night-session schedule of their singles debuts at the BNP Paribas Open.

Raducanu, the big-surprise U.S. Open champion, was assigned to Stadium 1, the most important showplace of the match. Fernandez, the Open runner-up, was assigned to Stadium 2, the second largest showplace of the match.

Both confronted older and extra skilled opponents. Both had the group behind them from the beginning, even when there have been empty seats galore in each stadiums.

Canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and postponed once more this yr from its customary dates in March, the occasion is predicted to have fewer spectators than standard this October.

The scene nonetheless seemed and sounded acquainted on Friday evening. The eating places on web site stay largely the identical, together with the Nobu outlet inside Stadium 2. The rock band that’s led by American doubles stars Mike and Bob Bryan carried out, as standard, on the primary stage.

But the Bryans are actually retirees after collectively ending their taking part in profession final yr, and different main stars are lacking from Indian Wells altogether.

Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem are out of the boys’s match. Serena and Venus Williams, and the No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and the No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka are out of the ladies’s occasion.

But among the buzz remained as followers confirmed their proof of vaccination at the entry gates and walked on web site to get a glance at Raducanu and Fernandez.

Only Fernandez, a left-handed Canadian, made the a lot of the event: mixing full-cut groundstrokes with deft backhand drop pictures and well-timed excursions to the online to defeat Alizé Cornet 6-2, 6-3.

It was a efficiency brimming with the kind of big-point resolve and all-court sparkle that Fernandez displayed on her means to the ultimate in New York.

Raducanu couldn’t make the identical easy transition. Though she gained the primary six factors of her match in opposition to Aliaksandra Sasnovich, that was no trace of issues to come. The types of pictures that Raducanu routinely hit for winners throughout the Open — sharply angled quick-strike returns and swing volleys — typically struck the tape or landed simply lengthy.

Though it initially appeared a pity that her much-anticipated return to competitors was happening in the course of the evening in London, maybe it was for the most effective.

She didn’t cover her disappointment throughout her 6-2, 6-Four defeat, gesticulating and twisting away because the unforced errors piled up. Raducanu supplied solely a quick and subdued wave to the general public as she exited the courtroom after taking part in for one hour and 25 minutes.

“Everyone can beat everyone,” the 100th-ranked Sasnovich concluded.

It is difficult to argue at this stage in ladies’s tennis. Raducanu did her half to show it in New York, turning into the primary qualifier in tennis historical past to win a Grand Slam singles title and doing so with out shedding a set in solely her second main match look.

But she dropped two units slightly rapidly to Sasnovich, a 27-year-old Belarusian from Minsk who bolstered her thesis about ladies’s tennis parity by stating that she had misplaced within the first spherical of this yr’s U.S. Open.

“So, a little bit different you see,” she mentioned, evaluating her consequence to Raducanu’s.

Their previous couple of weeks have been totally different as effectively, with Raducanu making two red-carpet appearances and returning to London as a famous person in want of a police escort from the airport to her dwelling. That got here solely two months after she completed her highschool exams and grew to become a full-time tennis skilled.

In an interview this week, Raducanu mentioned that the previous few weeks had been an “out-of-body experience,” as if she have been “watching it happen” to herself.

She has made some robust calls, selecting final month not to proceed working with the coach Andrew Richardson, a stunning transfer contemplating her breakthrough in New York. Raducanu has defined that she needs a coach with extra expertise at the highest of the sport. One logical candidate is Carlos Rodriguez, who coached the previous No. 1s Justine Henin of Belgium and Li Na of China. Li’s longtime agent is Max Eisenbud, who additionally represents Raducanu.

“I think it’s going to take me time to adjust really to what’s going on,” Raducanu mentioned after Friday’s defeat. “I mean, I’m still so new to everything. Like the experiences that I’m going through right now, even though I might not feel 100 percent amazing right now, I know they’re for the greater good.”

Raducanu added: “That’s the lesson I think, that you can easily get sucked into being so focused on the result and getting disappointed. I mean, I’m 18 years old. I need to cut myself some slack.”

That appears smart. Friday’s letdown was not an enormous shock. Sasnovich, like many WTA gamers, is extra harmful than her rating suggests. Raducanu is simply getting began on tour. The taking part in situations in Indian Wells are additionally far totally different than in New York the place the ball bounces decrease and winners are usually simpler to produce.

But Fernandez managed to thrive in each settings. Her heavy spin, significantly on the forehand aspect, provides her a higher margin of error. She additionally could have benefited from taking part in and successful a doubles match with the American teenager Coco Gauff on Thursday that helped Fernandez modify to the courtroom velocity.

Unlike Raducanu, Fernandez has not modified her assist workforce because the Open. Her health coach, Duglas Cordero, sat subsequent to her mom within the stands and incessantly jumped to his toes when Fernandez gained a degree, simply as he did in New York. Fernandez even saved her outfit the identical, whereas Raducanu arrived on courtroom in a brand new, predominately white ensemble.

Her rituals haven’t modified both: apply strokes and jogging in place between factors; proper fist clenched after success.

She had a lot on Friday. She was opportunistic and on course in opposition to Cornet, a Frenchwoman who has the baseline abilities to lengthen rallies and matches.

“It does give me a lot of confidence, because Alizé, she’s a very tough opponent,” Fernandez mentioned. “She fights for every point. I’ve practiced with her, too. We’ve had some tough practice matches. I knew that today was going to be hard.”

The third spherical must be harder. Fernandez’s subsequent opponent, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, was in advantageous type on Friday as she dominated the highly effective American Madison Keys.

But at least Fernandez has extra tennis to play in Indian Wells — maybe far more tennis. Raducanu, after her first go to to the California desert, should now make the lengthy journey again to Europe to play indoor occasions and proceed the variation course of.

Fernandez and Raducanu will lengthy be linked for his or her all-teenager, out-of-the-blue closing in New York. For now, their paths will diverge.

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