Emma Raducanu admitted she “struggled with everything” after being ousted by Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina in the opening round of the Qatar Open.
The British number-seven was unable to recover from her sluggish start in Doha as she slipped to a fourth defeat in seven matches since returning from injury.
Raducanu felt the full force of Kalinina’s thunderous backhand in a one-sided first set, which the Ukrainian wrapped up in a little over half an hour.
The Briton showed greater resolve in the second, but in a microcosm of her error-strewn afternoon – she coughed up 48 unforced errors in total – she squandered set point in a second-set tie-break as she succumbed to a 6-0 7-6 defeat.
“I think I was struggling with everything today – forehand, backhand. It was one of those days,” Raducanu told Sky Sports.
Raducanu, who is still eking her way back into top-level tennis after surgery on both her wrists and ankles, had been granted a wildcard for the event in Doha but found herself playing catch up to the world number 30 from the get-go.
A week on from being beaten by Ons Jabeur in Abu Dhabi, the 21-year-old endured a slow start, but will be heartened by the spirited fight she put up as the match wore on.
The former US Open champion saved two match points at 6-5 down in the second set to force a tie-break as she tried to wrestle back the game from Kalinina’s grasp – and was one point away from squaring the match while leading that 6-5.
But Kalinina, who never looked back after capitalising on Raducanu’s rusty serve in the opening game, held her nerve and will now face Latvia’s eighth seed Jelena Ostapenko in the second round.
Raducanu was forced onto the backfoot in the opening game of the match and came under immediate pressure at the start of the second set, when she lost her serve for the fourth consecutive time.
Appearing to struggle with the windy conditions, she spent large periods chasing shadows around a sun-drenched court. “Honestly, I think I need to practice training outside a bit more because it’s very different and also the light, conditions, shadows – it’s really hard to kind of see the ball, I found towards the end,” she said.
After reaching the second round of the Australian Open and beating world number 36 Marie Bouzkova in Abu Dhabi last week, this latest defeat has given Raducanu food for thought as she returns home after consecutive weeks on the road.
“I need to kind of schedule my tournaments a bit better as well as just trying to get some more matches under my belt,” said Raducanu, who last month mooted the possibility of dropping down a level to the second-tier ITF circuit.
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