Emma Raducanu lost in the first round of the Qatar Open in a straight sets defeat.

Estimated read time 4 min read

Emma Raducanu faced a challenging obstacle in her efforts to regain her skill and flow after recovering from injury. She was eliminated in the opening round of the Qatar Open by Anhelina Kalinina, who is ranked 30th in the world, with a score of 6-0, 7-6 (6).

Raducanu, currently ranked at No 262, traveled to Doha for the second event of the recently extended Middle Eastern tour following a strong performance in Abu Dhabi last week. She advanced to the second round with a notable win over No 36 Marie Bouzkova, but was ultimately overpowered by No 6 ranked Ons Jabeur in the following round.

In the windy and slow weather of Doha, Raducanu struggled against a strong opponent and was not playing well from the start. The 21-year-old had trouble finding her rhythm and made many unforced errors as Kalinina consistently returned shots, extended rallies, and outplayed her from the baseline. Kalinina easily won the first set, only making two unforced errors while Raducanu made 15.

The winner of the 2021 US Open started to improve her accuracy and energy in the second set, pushing herself closer to the baseline and aiming to hit the ball early from both sides to dominate the rallies. When Kalinina broke her serve for a score of 6-5 and had two match points, Raducanu managed to save them and even had a set point at 6-5 in the tie-break. However, Kalinina ultimately outlasted her opponent in a series of impressive and long rallies, winning the final three points to secure the win.

Although Raducanu’s first set performance was poor, she showed determination in the end. Lately, the British player has been focused on playing aggressively, especially utilizing her forehand to take control. In the second set, she had moments of hitting the ball beautifully and her shots were stronger than Kalinina’s. However, to maintain this level of play, she will need to improve her consistency and reduce the number of errors, especially on her forehand side.

Finding rhythm after long layoffs is extremely difficult and it usually takes time but Raducanu’s scheduling upon her return to competition has been curious. Instead of starting afresh and attempting to rebuild her form at a lower level, such as by playing the WTA 250 event in Cluj last week, she has opted to take wildcards into big events. Even if she had pulled out a victory over Kalinina, the in-form eighth seed Jelena Ostapenko would have been heavily favoured to beat her in the second round.

Emma Raducanu shakes hands with Anhelina Kalinina over the the net in Doha

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The WTA’s recent modifications to its schedule have made it more challenging for players to participate in lower-tier tournaments. While ATP players have a choice of three tournaments every week in February, with seven ATP 250s taking place this month, the WTA calendar now prioritizes larger events. This week, the only available event is the Qatar Open, a WTA 1000 tournament, and there are only two WTA 250 events scheduled for this month. Raducanu has decided not to request a wildcard for the WTA 1000 event in Dubai next week and will instead return home to train for the consecutive WTA 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami.

On Monday evening in Doha, Naomi Osaka made progress in her comeback by defeating the 15th seed, Caroline Garcia, 7-5, 6-4 in the second round.

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Naomi Osaka smiles after beating Caroline Garcia in their first-round match of the Qatar OpenView image in fullscreen

Before her recent win, Osaka had only won one match out of four since coming back to professional tennis after having her daughter, Shai. In a match last week in Abu Dhabi, Osaka struggled and lost nine consecutive games in a 7-5, 6-0 defeat against Danielle Collins. Osaka had previously played against Garcia in the first round of the Australian Open, but despite a close match, she was unable to create any break opportunities against the French player.

During the initial portions of the match, Garcia appeared focused and successfully broke her opponent to secure a 5-3 advantage. However, Osaka made a comeback and won the remaining four games of the first set. She continued to improve her ball-striking as the match progressed and ultimately secured the crucial break in the final game. In her next match, Osaka will be playing against Petra Martic from Croatia and hopes to win back-to-back matches for the first time since her return.

Source: theguardian.com

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