Emma Raducanu warns she’s playing with a target on her back after early French Open exit

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Emma Raducanu lost in the second round at her maiden French Open  (AFP via Getty Images)
Emma Raducanu lost in the second round at her maiden French Open (AFP via Getty Images)

Emma Raducanu believes she is perpetually playing with a target on her back because of her US Open heroics following another early Grand Slam exit.

The 19-year-old had produced arguably one of her best sets of tennis since winning the US Open last year to take a deserved early lead against Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the second round at Roland Garros on Wednesday.

But the Belarusian found her range with her heavy-hitting groundstrokes to drop just two games in the final two sets of a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 win.

And Raducanu is all too aware after a second straight second-round exit at a Grand Slam since her New York triumph that she has become a victim of her own early success.

“It’s different when you are someone who may have a target on their back,” she said. “Everyone raises their game, wants to play well, wants to take you out. That’s something that I have definitely learned this year and accepted.”

That target will be aimed even more precisely at her come her home Grand Slam at Wimbledon in a few weeks’ time, which proved her breakout event in the senior ranks as she booked her place in the fourth round before that famous run in New York.

But despite the chastening loss in Paris yesterday from a previous position of strength, she said it would not dent her confidence going into the grass-court leg of the season.

“I think before I would let the losses affect me more than I am right now,” said Raducanu, who is on the lookout for a new coach having parted company with Torben Beltz. “Now, I just look at everything as a lesson, and I know exactly where I went wrong, where I can improve, where other people are better than me.”

There are reasons to be positive. This was Raducanu’s first clay-court season on the WTA Tour during which she picked up six wins and pushed the form player in the women’s game and the Roland Garros red-hot favourite Iga Swiatek in two tight sets in the quarter-finals of the Stuttgart Open.

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Of the year to date, the world No12 from Britain said: “It has been a pretty positive year because I have learned so much and the amount of learning I have done outweighs any sort of results. I don’t approach things crazily different off the court. I’m exactly the same person as I was 12 months ago but, yeah, things around me have changed.

“In the last 12 months, I have grown a lot. On court, I feel like I have probably improved how much I fight. That’s one of the biggest strengths and even more so on the tour this year. It’s opened my eyes to just how good everyone is and how much depth there is in the game.

“But there are definitely aspects of my game that need to improve and catch up to where my ranking is. I had no expectations [on clay]. I put myself in four tournaments in a row, thinking I was going to lose first round in every one but I played a few matches in each.”

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