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Aliaksandra Sasnovich’s avalanche of victories left Emma Raducanu searching for answers and her French Open trip over before it felt like it had really began. The lopsided scoreline of 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 skews the nature of what was a much closer encounter over two hours on Court Suzanne Lenglen, but it does capture the essence that when Sasnovich found her stride and the forehand winners flowed, Raducanu had little chance of keeping up.
Raducanu’s victory at the US Open was followed by second-round exits at her next two major slams. She came up against an energized Sasnovich, the same opponent who defeated Raducanu in her debut match as US Open champion at Indian Wells in October. Raducanu showed hints of the experience and lessons she had gained on the tour since then, especially given she had such a strong start. But what was clear once again was the depth of the women’s draw and the dangers of catching an opponent while they are on fire themselves.
During the second set, Sasnovich, whose inconsistent play has been a cause of frustration and explains her world ranking of 47, had Raducanu concerned as her cross-court forehand blossomed into a commanding and unstoppable weapon. Raducanu, who had lost the first set and was a break down against Linda Noskova in the first round, was back on familiar territory when she struck to take the lead, but she couldn’t match Sasnovich’s striking as she swung for the corners.
The first set had a lot to like about it. This second-round match quickly became clear as a battle between Sasnovich’s power and top-spin and Raducanu’s ability to move around the court and produce angles. Raducanu’s backhand improved in tandem with her return game’s aggressiveness, and she rapidly established a lead by breaking serve twice.
Sasnovich remained unfazed, instead increasing her intensity and variety in her play. The 28-year-old also added a nasty backhand drop-shot to his forehand that Raducanu couldn’t read despite it being called up numerous times throughout the match. The momentum had shifted in her favor, and the second set was completed fast.
Raducanu made her French Open debut on what was always going to be her weakest surface, but if there are any complaints of the 19-year-old here, it’s that her game lacks the variety required to address the challenging questions that opponents are now asking of her. Aside from her groundstrokes and returning game, she lacks the same arsenal of weapons, especially when the first serve isn’t landing.