SYDNEY/WASHINGTON, January 12, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)
There was frustration and disappointment for Great Britain’s Emma Raducanu as she bowed 6-0, 6-1 to No. 7 seed Elena Rybakina in her opening performance of the 2022 season, in the first round of the Sydney Tennis Classic Tuesday evening.
At least, from her point of view, Raducanu wasn’t double-bageled. She was able to maintain a smile on her face as she left the court after her 55-minute dismantling by the talented, 13th-ranked Rybakina from Kazakhstan. There will be better days and evenings for the 19-year-old British teen, who is currently ranked 18th in the world and is beginning her first full season on the WTA tour.
Rybakina, a big hitter who is tour-ready, provided the appreciative Ken Rosewall Arena crowd with first-strike tennis at the highest order. The 22-year-old Kazakh used her serve as a potent weapon, something she acknowledged during an on-court interview after her victory. She struck four aces and hit 24 winners overall, won all seven of her service games, and did not face any break points on her serve. Rybakina won nine games in a row to start the match and pushed ahead 6-0, 3-0 before Raducanu finally held serve, which drew wild applause from the crowd.
“I simply wasn’t going to lose love and love,” Raducanu said after the match. “So that was my motivation.”
Unfortunately, the spark was short-lived.
— wta (@WTA) January 11, 2022
Looking back, Raducanu found little or no rhythm in her game – she hit just five winners, all from her forehand side – and was hindered by six double faults. Meanwhile, Rybakina’s groundstrokes looked so big – and so good – and Raducanu was slow to react to many of them. Rybakina, who outpointed Raducanu 55-28, pulverized the Briton on her second-serve returns and won 13 of 15 opportunities. Her overall shot-making ability was dominating against Raducanu, which was a reflection of her consistency and tour toughness.
While Raducanu managed to save two match points, Rybakina struck struck a solid forehand winner that concluded a final five-shot rally on her third match-point try. It was an emphatic victory for the in-the-groove Rybakina, a runner up to Ashleigh Barty in Adelaide last week, which improved her win-loss rccord to 4-1 on the young season. Next, she will face No. 74 Caroline Garcia in the second round of the WTA 500 hard-court event.
“I started really well last week,” Rybakina said during her on-court interview. “I’m just happy to be here and playing in front of you guys. Thank youfor the support. … I really love playing in Australia.”
During her post-match press conference, Raducanu offered compliments of her more-experienced opponent, while also suggesting that her expectations had been low after testing positive for COVID-19 last month. Following a 21-day absence from the court while recovering from the coronavirus, in which she withdrew from last week’s Melbourne Summer Set tournament, Raducanu said she had just begun to play points in practice.
“It’s tough but it’s good because I’m very proud and happy that I put myself out there,” Raducanu said. “I could have easily said it’s too soon and just play next week, but I wanted to really test where I’m at and obviously give myself some competitive points and matches. I think this will help put me in a better place for next week.”
— LTA (@the_LTA) January 11, 2022
Next week, the reigning US Open champion Raducanu will be seeded 17th in her first Australian Open main draw. In the meantime, Raducanu and her team, which included new coach Torben Beltz, went straight to the practice court after her loss. “I felt like I could have done some things better in the match, and I wanted to try and fix it straight away, just leave with a better feeling about it,” she said. “So, yeah, we went on court.”
Raducanu admitted she felt better afterward, too. Despite the one-sided defeat, she remains upbeat for the future. As The Tennis Podcast co-host David Law wrote on Twitter after the match: “Worth remembering that Emma Raducanu is a Tour novice. It’s going to take time.”
Looking back, Raducanu said: “Yeah, I was just fighting. At the end of the day, I just want to keep putting myself out there. Even if I keep getting knocked down and it’s just about getting back up and basically just falling in front. You’re one step better and you learn more.”
Despite uncertainty, Djokovic continues to practice
While it remains uncertain that Novak Djokovic will be allowed to remain in Australia, he continues to practice at Melbourne Park.
Novak Djokovic is making sure he’s ready for next week’s Australian Open despite uncertainty that he’ll be allowed to remain in the country — hitting practice courts hard Down Under on Tuesday. https://t.co/yZJV1pWcq5
— TMZ (@TMZ) January 11, 2022
O’Shannessy on Djokovic: ‘He’s one of the most mentally tough athletes’
During a recent appearance on Australian TV’s “Sunrise,” Novak Djokovic’s former coach Craig O’Shannessy said the World No. 1 “can absolutely still win the Australian Open” despite all the drama surrounding his visa circumstances.
“He’s one of the most mentally tough athletes in any sport in the world”
Novak Djokovic’s former coach Craig O’Shannessy says the tennis star “can absolutely still win the Australian Open” despite his visa drama. pic.twitter.com/voEZz49RZ5
— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) January 10, 2022
WTA releases statement on Renata Voracova’s visa in Australia
On Wednesday, the WTA released a statement on deported Czech tennis player Renata Voracova, who last week had her visa cancelled.
“The WTA is supportive and appreciative of all the efforts put forth by Craig Tiley and Tennis Australia to host the Summer of Tennis under conditions that continue to be challenging for all. The WTA believes that all players should be vaccinated and is in full support of the immigration policies that have been put in place as the protection of the Australian communities in which we compete is critical.
“That being said, the complications experienced over the past few days where athletes have followed the approved and authorized process of receiving a medical exemption for entry into the country are unfortunate. Renata Voracova followed these rules and procedures, was cleared for entry upon her arrival, competed in an event and then suddenly had her visa cancelled when she had done nothing wrong.
“We will continue to work with all authorities on addressing this unfortunate situation in an appropriate manner.”
WTA statement on Renata Voracova’s visa in Australia ⬇️
— wta (@WTA) January 12, 2022
Fernandez becomes a face of Lululemon
Canadian Leylah Fernandez has leveraged her breakout season on the tennis court, which included reaching the title match of the 2021 US Open and being ranked 24th, into becoming a face of Lululemon. The 19-year-old from Montreal has recently signed a sponsorship deal and will help to lead the brand’s push into tennis apparel, beginning with the Australian Open
“I have always wanted to be original, different from the tennis players and be my own unique person,” Fernandez told Forbes. “When I heard Lululemon wanted to get on the big stage in tennis, that was a great opportunity for me. I told my dad and my agents, Lululemon is the one for me.”
She’s the first global ambassador in tennis for Lululemon. They’re really growing their presence in the sport https://t.co/WGXqG2CiLM
— Stephanie (@LIVAUDAIS) January 11, 2022
Matteo Berrettini for Icon Magazine: Dressed for success
World No. 7 Matteo Berrettini can be seen celebrating Italian style and talent as a cover subject of the January issue of Icon Magazine.
Matteo Berrettini for Icon Magazine 🔥 pic.twitter.com/ZRE7oqirJV
— Luigi Gatto (@gigicat7_) January 11, 2022
By the numbers
World No. 10 Ons Jabeur achieved one of her New Year’s resolutions: Beating Petra Kvitova, whom she had lost to in three previous head-to-head meetings, all in the straight sets. On Wednesday afternoon in the second round of the Sydney Tennis Classic, the No. 7 seed from Tunisia defeated the World No. 17 Kvitova of the Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-4, on Rod Laver Arena.
— wta (@WTA) January 12, 2022
“It was very important. That’s why, for some reason, I was talking to my coach about it, that I wanted to win at least once, you know, against her. She’s the kind of play that puts a lot of pressure on me that I don’t particularly like, and that gave me really, let’s say, the courage to work on this kind of a style of a game.”
– Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, on the importance of her breakthrough first win in her fourth try against Petra Kvitova to reach the quarterfinals of the Sydney Tennis Classic, as told to Tennis TourTalk.