Emma Raducanu lost to Aliaksandra Sasnovich at Indian Wells
Emma Raducanu’s early exit from the BNP Paribas Open was just “a little bump” in the road, according to Andy Murray, who emphasised that we cannot expect a fairytale from her every week.
After the Cinderella act of New York, Indian Wells delivered more of a “Bambi’s mum” moment as Raducanu was mown down in her first match by the experienced Belarussian Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
But Murray told reporters that such turnarounds are all part of the gnarly reality of touring life. No-one can skip effortlessly through weeks and months of professional tennis, even if Raducanu’s apparently frictionless progress to the US Open title might have given that impression.
“What happened in New York was obviously incredible but in tennis and sport it doesn’t just go in an upwards direction all the time,” Murray said. “There’s always little bumps and stuff along the way. It’s just a little bump, but I think pretty much everyone was sort of expecting that as well. I don’t think it’s anything unexpected, to be honest.”
“She’s obviously unbelievably bright, well educated and stuff,” Murray added, with regard to the enormous hype that now surrounds Raducanu. “So you would imagine she would certainly be a lot better equipped to deal with everything that’s going on than most and deal with it in a more mature way than I would have done when I was 18.”
The immediate debate after Raducanu’s 6-2, 6-4 loss surrounded the unfamiliarity of her support staff. Two members of her three-man US Open crew were absent: the Lawn Tennis Association physio Will Herbert and her former coach Andrew Richardson, whose contract was not extended after it expired a month ago.
But it’s also worth noting that these conditions were very different to the ones that Raducanu had enjoyed so much in New York. The ball flies quickly through the thin air of Indian Wells, the self-styled “tennis paradise” in the Californian desert. But the court surface is very slow and full of grit, leading to many long rallies in the manner of clay-court tennis.
“In New York the court was quite quick so it was shooting through and it was first-strike tennis really,” said Murray. “Whereas here the balls are checking a lot and it is very bouncy. It was windy as well and it can swirl a bit in that stadium, whereas in New York now you’ve got the roof on the court so you don’t really get the wind.”
Emma Raducanu confirmed for Abu Dhabi exhibition
Raducanu was playing only the second night match of her short career, after the US Open semi-final, and never came to terms with these unique conditions. But if there was a positive from this otherwise disappointing evening, it lay in the excellent perspective that she showed in her post-match interview.
She said: “I’m kind of glad that what happened today happened, so I can learn and take it as a lesson. So going forward, I’ll just have more experience banked.”
Murray himself went through plenty of growing pains as a teenager, both on the court and in the media. In the most egregious example, some pundits cynically interpreted his “anyone but England” comment in the build-up to the 2006 World Cup as a genuine snub, rather than a light-hearted piece of joshing with his friend and mentor Tim Henman.
From his uniquely qualified position, Murray has been amazed by Raducanu’s level-headedness. “I think she’s handled herself perfectly,” he said.
“Maybe some of the stuff that went on around her, it seemed like everyone was coming out the woodwork off the back of it. But I’m sure as she moves along she will learn how to go about everything and how to balance the whole tennis life, commercial life and the sort of stuff that goes on away from the court better all the time.”