Emma Raducanu experienced a crushing defeat to Elena Rybakina at the Sydney Tennis Classic, winning just a single game in her first match of 2022. It was an ego-bruising return to the court for US Open champion Raducanu, experiencing her first humbling ‘bagel’ set on tour, in a 6-0 6-1 loss.
It was not ideal practice ahead of the Australian Open next week and will be a match she will want to move on from quickly, with new coach Torben Beltz on hand for the first time to help her improve.
There is much work to do though. She struggled to put her stamp on things, was broken five times and her confidence will likely have suffered a big blow after spending less than an hour on court.
But it is worth noting she was playing only her third match against a top 20 player of her entire career, and 13th-ranked Rybakina, 22, is in brilliant form after reaching the final of last week’s Adelaide International. The gulf in experience and match practice was evident from the get-go, as Raducanu hit three double faults in her opening service game to go a break down. That rustiness was pounced upon by Rybakina, who – armed with her blistering serve – went on to win the first nine games in a row.
Raducanu won just 13 per cent of points on her second serve, as Rybakina took time away from her with her aggressive returning and well-crafted quick point scoring to ruin the British No 1’s chances of gaining any rhythm.
Raducanu came up with few solutions, but despite the one-sidedness, could be seen telling herself to “fight” between points and kept somewhat positive. She even betrayed a big smile and fist pump when she finally got her name on the scoreboard, to the huge relief of the crowd cheering her on.
But there was no coming back from the huge deficit, and Rybakina was the worthy winner in just 56 minutes.
Emma Raducanu vs Elena Rybakina, as it happened
That’s all folks
Thanks for joining us as always. Disappointment for Raducanu ahead of the Australia Open but she has a few days now to get back on track.
But stay with us for full coverage of the opening Grand Slam of the year next week.
Raducanu’s struggle must not detract from how great Rybakina was. Her serve was excellent, hit with speed and accuracy. The timing on her returns was near perfect, repeatedly attacking Raducanu’s 2nd serve. The weight of shot from the baseline was also impressive, never giving Raducanu time on the ball and any rythmn.
She will be one to watch next week in Melbourne for sure…
Something to remember throughout this year
What happens next for Raducanu?
Go to Melbourne and hit the practice court. Practice can’t replicate match conditions precisely but more time on the court, working on her serve will be vital.
Raducanu was beaten by a world-class opponent and despite the nature of the defeat, perspective is needed.
Work to do for Raducanu
Pain for Raducanu
On commentary, Annabel Croft suggest Raducanu needs a lot of practice sets to get herself ready for the Australian Open.
But the stats weren’t good for the British No 1. She won just 2 of her 15 second service points. Hit 6 double fault. Won only 54% of first serve points. Hit just 4 forehand winners to 17 from Rybakina. And made 22 unforced errors.
If there’s a positive to be taken, she surely won’t play any worse than that again.
Raducanu 0-6, 1-6 Rybakina* (*denotes server)
Three match points quickly come for Rybakina. Raducanu saves the first when Rybakina nets a forehand.
And the second as she gets Rybakina on the back foot and hits a drive backhand winner.
GAME>SET>MATCH RYBAKINA. Job done by Rybakina as she finishes with an overhead winner.
Raducanu* 0-6, 1-5 Rybakina (*denotes server)
Rybakina destroys another second serve by Raducanu and finishes with a forehand winner, 30-15. Raducanu then nets a forehand, 30-30.
A slower first serve by Raducanu is punished with a huge forehand from Rybakina. Break point.
Rybakina just misses with a forehand. Second break opportunity coming as Raducanu put a forehand wide.
Relief for Raducanu as Rybakina puts a forehand long. A fourth break point for Rybakina and she finally takes it with another huge forehand.
Raducanu 0-6, 1-4 Rybakina* (*denotes server)
The crowd want to see a match and they are definitely on Raducanu’s side. But another Rybakina ace makes it 30-15.
Raducanu return error, 40-15. And Rybakina holds with a forehand pass winner as Raducanu tried to do something different.
Raducanu* 0-6, 1-3 Rybakina (*denotes server)
Another double fault by Raducanu, her sixth, 15-15. Raducanu forehand winner, 30-15. Massive Rybakina forehand winner, 30-30.
Big smile from Raducanu as she finally gets on the scoreboard when Rybakina misses a backhand down the line.
Raducanu 0-6, 0-3 Rybakina* (*denotes server)
Raducanu hasn’t been able to dominate any rallies today. Rybakina is blasting her way past the British No 1.
Rybakina double fault. But a Rybakina backhand winner seals a ninth game in a row.
Unstoppable tennis at the moment.
Raducanu* 0-6, 0-2 Rybakina (*denotes server)
Three more break points for Rybakina after more errors from Raducanu and a huge forehand winner.
Raducanu saves the first. But not the second as she hits a fifth double fault. Eerie silence from the crowd.
Second Set: Raducanu 0-6, 0-1 Rybakina* (*denotes server)
Rybakina starts the set with back-to-back forehand winners. And a third winner. Unplayable tennis at the moment.
And she holds as she crushes another forehand down the line.
Raducanu* 0-6 Rybakina (*denotes server)
Rybakina punishes a weak second serve by Raducanu, 0-15. Raducanu backhand long, 0-30. Rybakina just misses with a backhand down the line, 15-30.
Rybakina backhand long, 30-30. Raducanu double fault, set point. And Rybakina takes the set as Raducanu puts a backhand into the net.
Rybakina has been awesome. Raducanu needs to start the second set well.
Raducanu 0-5 Rybakina* (*denotes server)
Excellent defense again by Raducanu to steal a point with a forehand winner, 30-15. Rybakina forehand error, 30-30.
Rybakina ace, her second of the match. Good backhand return by Raducanu draws an error from Rybakina.
Third ace for Rybakina. Huge drive forehand by Rybakina to win the game.
Raducanu* 0-4 Rybakina (*denotes server)
Rybakina is playing so aggressively at the moment and Raducanu needs to weather this early storm.
A wild forehand by Raducanu drifts wide, 15-30. Raducanu backhand into the tramlines. An anxious look by Raducanu to her support box. Two break points.
Raducanu saves the first but not the second as she hits a forehand long. Double break for Rybakina.
Raducanu 0-3 Rybakina* (*denotes server)
Raducanu goes for a backhand down the line but nets, 30-0. Good defense by Raducanu to hang in the rally and Rybakina misses with a forehand.
Raducanu frames a forehand return but the ball drops in and Rybakina nets a forehand. Rybakina responds with a forehand winner. And she holds when Raducanu nets a forehand.
Raducanu* 0-2 Rybakina (*denotes server)
Consecutive winners from Raducanu to start the game. Rybakina responds with a forehand winner of her own.
Big first serve with great placement is unreturned by Rybakina. Double fault Raducanu, 40-30.
And another double fault draws gasps from the crowd. Deuce. Longest rally of the match and Raducanu puts a backhand long. Break point. Disappointment for Rybakina as she puts a forehand long.
Raducanu forehand into the net, second break point for Rybakina. Third double fault by Raducanu and the early break goes the way of the world No 13.
First Set: Emma Raducanu 0-1 Elena Rybakina* (*denotes server)
Big-hitting right off from the off by Rybakina. An ace makes it 40-0. And she holds with a forehand winner.
Tough test for Raducanu
Rybakina is ranked 13 in the world, has two career titles, $2.8m in prize money and was a finalist in Adelaide last week.
Here we go!
Warm welcome for Raducanu as she walks onto court with Rybakina.
Rybakina wins the toss and will serve first.
And welcome to our live coverage of Emma Raducanu’s first match of 2022, against Elena Rybakina at the Sydney Tennis Classic.
The rising British superstar will be hoping for a good run at the upcoming Australian Open – the first grand slam since her fairytale success in New York in September.
Today’s match is also Raducanu’s first under her new coach Torben Beltz. And, as Molly McElwee explains, the German is anything but an ordinary coach.
Beltz, who has already been praised by Raducanu for his “positive” and “cheerful” energy, has always found ways to keep players in his charge on their toes.
During his long, and hugely successful, tenure with three-time major champion Angelique Kerber, he would make wagers with her over things like how far she would progress in tournaments, with the loser having to do forfeits – including going skydiving.
That fun factor is just one of the qualities to which helped Beltz bag the most coveted and exciting job in tennis. He is said to be a quiet and analytical coach, with a relaxed and positive manner which won Raducanu and her team over.
Raducanu, the world No 19, was scheduled to play at the Melbourne Summer Set last week, but was forced to withdraw from the tournament having just come out of isolation after testing positive for Covid-19.
“The timing to compete in the first Melbourne event this week is too soon for me, having just returned from isolation,” Raducanu said.
Ahead of the new season, two legends of tennis forecast a difficult season for Raducanu, as she looks to build on that astonishing victory at September’s US Open.
Offering predictions for 2022, the nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova suggested that Raducanu’s peers now know how she plays and where to target her, while the 1980s doubles giant Pam Shriver expressed doubt that Raducanu would finish the year in the world’s top 20.