INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Nearly a month after Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez confronted off in maybe essentially the most sudden Grand Slam singles closing, they returned to motion as headliners.
Neither teenager had performed within the Indian Wells Tennis Garden till this 12 months, however they had been entrance and heart on Friday, anchoring the night-session schedule of their singles debuts at the BNP Paribas Open.
Raducanu, the big-surprise U.S. Open champion, was assigned to Stadium 1, the most important showplace of the event. Fernandez, the Open runner-up, was assigned to Stadium 2, the second largest showplace of the event.
Both confronted older and extra skilled opponents. Both had the group behind them from the beginning, even when there have been empty seats galore in each stadiums.
Canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and postponed once more this 12 months from its customary dates in March, the occasion is anticipated to have fewer spectators than normal this October.
The scene nonetheless appeared and sounded acquainted on Friday night time. The eating places on website stay largely the identical, together with the Nobu outlet inside Stadium 2. The rock band that’s led by American doubles stars Mike and Bob Bryan carried out, as normal, on the primary stage.
But the Bryans at the moment are retirees after collectively ending their enjoying profession final 12 months, and different main stars are lacking from Indian Wells altogether.
Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem are out of the boys’s event. Serena and Venus Williams, and the No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and the No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka are out of the ladies’s occasion.
But a number of the buzz remained as followers confirmed their proof of vaccination at the entry gates and walked on website to get a glance at Raducanu and Fernandez.
Only Fernandez, a left-handed Canadian, made the many of the event: mixing full-cut groundstrokes with deft backhand drop pictures and well-timed excursions to the web to defeat Alizé Cornet 6-2, 6-3.
It was a efficiency brimming with the form of big-point resolve and all-court sparkle that Fernandez displayed on her approach to the ultimate in New York.
Raducanu couldn’t make the identical easy transition. Though she received the primary six factors of her match towards Aliaksandra Sasnovich, that was no trace of issues to come. The types of pictures that Raducanu routinely hit for winners throughout the Open — sharply angled quick-strike returns and swing volleys — usually struck the tape or landed simply lengthy.
Though it initially appeared a pity that her much-anticipated return to competitors was happening in the course of the night time in London, maybe it was for the most effective.
She didn’t conceal her disappointment throughout her 6-2, 6-Four defeat, gesticulating and twisting away because the unforced errors piled up. Raducanu provided solely a short and subdued wave to the general public as she exited the courtroom after enjoying for one hour and 25 minutes.
“Everyone can beat everyone,” the 100th-ranked Sasnovich concluded.
It is difficult to argue at this stage in ladies’s tennis. Raducanu did her half to show it in New York, changing into the primary qualifier in tennis historical past to win a Grand Slam singles title and doing so with out shedding a set in solely her second main event look.
But she dropped two units relatively rapidly to Sasnovich, a 27-year-old Belarusian from Minsk who bolstered her thesis about ladies’s tennis parity by mentioning that she had misplaced within the first spherical of this 12 months’s U.S. Open.
“So, a little bit different you see,” she mentioned, evaluating her consequence to Raducanu’s.
Their previous couple of weeks have been completely different as properly, with Raducanu making two red-carpet appearances and returning to London as a celebrity in want of a police escort from the airport to her dwelling. That got here solely two months after she completed her highschool exams and turned a full-time tennis skilled.
In an interview this week, Raducanu mentioned that the previous few weeks had been an “out-of-body experience,” as if she had been “watching it happen” to herself.
She has made some robust calls, selecting final month not to proceed working with the coach Andrew Richardson, a shocking transfer contemplating her breakthrough in New York. Raducanu has defined that she desires a coach with extra expertise at the highest of the game. One logical candidate is Carlos Rodriguez, who coached the previous No. 1s Justine Henin of Belgium and Li Na of China. Li’s longtime agent is Max Eisenbud, who additionally represents Raducanu.
“I think it’s going to take me time to adjust really to what’s going on,” Raducanu mentioned after Friday’s defeat. “I mean, I’m still so new to everything. Like the experiences that I’m going through right now, even though I might not feel 100 percent amazing right now, I know they’re for the greater good.”
Raducanu added: “That’s the lesson I think, that you can easily get sucked into being so focused on the result and getting disappointed. I mean, I’m 18 years old. I need to cut myself some slack.”
That appears smart. Friday’s letdown was not an enormous shock. Sasnovich, like many WTA gamers, is extra harmful than her rating suggests. Raducanu is simply getting began on tour. The enjoying situations in Indian Wells are additionally far completely different than in New York the place the ball bounces decrease and winners are usually simpler to produce.
But Fernandez managed to thrive in each settings. Her heavy spin, significantly on the forehand facet, provides her a larger margin of error. She additionally could have benefited from enjoying and successful a doubles match with the American teenager Coco Gauff on Thursday that helped Fernandez modify to the courtroom pace.
Unlike Raducanu, Fernandez has not modified her help crew for the reason that Open. Her health coach, Duglas Cordero, sat subsequent to her mom within the stands and incessantly jumped to his toes when Fernandez received a degree, simply as he did in New York. Fernandez even stored her outfit the identical, whereas Raducanu arrived on courtroom in a brand new, predominately white ensemble.
Her rituals haven’t modified both: observe strokes and jogging in place between factors; proper fist clenched after success.
She had loads on Friday. She was opportunistic and on the right track towards Cornet, a Frenchwoman who has the baseline expertise to prolong rallies and matches.
“It does give me a lot of confidence, because Alizé, she’s a very tough opponent,” Fernandez mentioned. “She fights for every point. I’ve practiced with her, too. We’ve had some tough practice matches. I knew that today was going to be hard.”
The third spherical needs to be more durable. Fernandez’s subsequent opponent, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, was in wonderful type on Friday as she dominated the highly effective American Madison Keys.
But at least Fernandez has extra tennis to play in Indian Wells — maybe rather more tennis. Raducanu, after her first go to to the California desert, should now make the lengthy journey again to Europe to play indoor occasions and proceed the variation course of.
Fernandez and Raducanu will lengthy be linked for his or her all-teenager, out-of-the-blue closing in New York. For now, their paths will diverge.