After securing the first WTA win of her career, beating Polona Hercog in the first round of the Transylvania Open, Emma Raducanu now switches her thoughts to Thursday’s encounter with world No 106 Ana Bogdan. She admitted she was not at her best against Hercog, and has a few points to work on ahead of the second round.
Dealing with the target on her back
With all the benefits of her breakout performance at Wimbledon and remarkable victory at the US Open, Raducanu is now also a known quantity. That level of success comes with a massive target on her back.
Players at every level have spoken about the belief she instilled in them, by becoming the first ever qualifier to win a major title. If she could lift her game to such heights in New York, they ask, why not me?
Her second round opponent Bogdan, said on Monday that she had been “inspired” by Raducanu in New York. “Everything is possible. It’s very, very important to have the right attitude. That is what I admired when I saw her. I admired her focus, her footwork, her shots and the way she behaved. For me it was an inspiration and an inspiration for many, many girls out there. She is a great athlete and a great champion. I am looking forward to the next match.”
Aliaksandra Sasnovich at Indian Wells played well above her ranking to beat Raducanu and the teenager’s first-round battle against Hercog in Cluj-Napoca was a similar story. A former top 40 player, Hercog has had a disappointing season, with just one win in the main draw of WTA events since Roland Garros in May. But the world No 124 upped her level against Raducanu, to exploit the moments when she was not at her best.
The added admiration and scrutiny opponents are paying her is something Raducanu said she will adapt to. “If there is pressure, it’s something that you just learn to deal with,” she said on Tuesday. “I actually quite enjoy playing under some sort of adrenaline.”
Apart from the smooth-sailing third set, Raducanu had very few easy games against Hercog. This was partly because of the quality Hercog was bringing, but also due to Raducanu’s first serve flagging in the first set. Her first-serve percentage was only at 58, and she was winning just 36 per cent of points on her second serve. It gave Hercog the opportunity to pull the rug out from under her, breaking her twice to take the first set.
As the match progressed, this element of Raducanu’s game significantly improved, and so the momentum turned her way. Serving at 70 and 77 per cent for the following two sets meant she was able to pounce on Hercog’s less aggressive returns, put away points more quickly and regain her confidence as a result.
Being more clinical
Raducanu was not short of chances in the match. Up 4-1 in the first set, she looked ready to cruise towards victory. She let that slip though, and despite setting up 17 break points on Hercog’s serve, only converted four times. Against superior opponents, she will need to work more efficiently and cut out some of the errors that blighted her first and second set in particular.
Her forehand was particularly unreliable, as she struggled to find her range and she scuffed a few shots when the Slovenian ramped up the pressure.
At the US Open, she had an almost freakish ability to close out matches in two sets, the quick courts aiding her baseline game and killer backhand. But she remains a newbie on the tour, and will still be grappling with how to adapt to various surfaces and conditions.
She is without a coach at the slower indoor courts in Cluj-Napoca, and so will need to figure these things out for herself.
“I can take confidence and loosen up for the next match,” Raducanu said, looking ahead to playing Romanian home favourite Bogdan on Thursday. “Now I feel like I have settled in better, I am used to the courts, I am used to a match under the conditions.”