Emma Raducanu puffed up her cheeks and focused on what comes after the early end of her US Open title defense.
Not having lost a set in 10 games at Flushing Meadows last year, Raducanu was unable to find the same form 12 months later in an admittedly very difficult first round assignment against Alize Cornet and fell to a 6-minute defeat. -3 6-3.
With her cap pulled down to her face, the 19-year-old didn’t avoid her disappointment in a measured post-match press conference, but she also tried to see the bright side of her ranking drop to around 80.
While it will never be an anonymous tour grinder, expectations will now be a little lower, the lens on its back a little smaller, and the way forward will present possibilities rather than pitfalls.
“Obviously it would have been great to defend the title,” said Raducanu, who plans to play smaller WTA events for the remainder of the season.
“But I want new experiences. In a way, I did, so I want another tournament. It doesn’t matter what it is. I think any player would be happy to win a tournament. “
The normal rules do not currently apply in women’s tennis. Of the 15 current and former Grand Slam champions in the women’s draw, only three were seeded in the top 10 in New York while six were unseed.
Even all-time greats like Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic have had long gaps between their first and second Grand Slam titles, while Raducanu could look forward to Cornet, who is experiencing the best slam season of his career at 32. .
Former world number one Mats Wilander, who is working as an expert for Eurosport, said: “I don’t see much difference from Emma this year from last year, except she was just confident and the other players had afraid to interpret it.
“It is obviously a surprise that the reigning champion comes out but, at the same time, she has been on tour for a year and two months. Not a concern for me at all.
“In fact, I think this is a very, very important step in his career that the defense of this title is over and he can now focus on his tennis and try to move up in the rankings in a normal way.
“Emma is good, but she’s not great. She had a lot of confidence last year, she is a fighter and she plays well.
“The only thing I don’t know is that I feel she hasn’t found her identity as a player yet. Are you a bit of a risk taker? Do you really sound aggressive? Or does she use her range of motion, does she move away a little and play with a little variation? “
She has plenty of time to sort these things out, but she again finds herself in the position of having to decide who to lead her.
Raducanu has been without a permanent manager since he split from Torben Beltz in April. He tried Russian Dmitry Tursunov and there were some encouraging signs, but on Tuesday he declined to say if he was considering making the long-term deal.
Equally important, if not more so, is his work off the pitch, with Raducanu physically well behind his peers as a legacy of completing his school.
The annoying injury and illness certainly didn’t help her this year and trying to avoid it in the future will be a top priority.
“If I look at how much tennis I’ve played this year, or the training I’ve done, it’s very, very minimal,” he said.
“We actually counted the days. From Roma to shortly after Wimbledon, I only played tennis for 14 days in two and a half months or something. It was quite wild.
“Six weeks of training, I already feel much better as a player. I definitely feel like I’m growing in confidence.
“I think the most important thing for me is the consistency of these weeks, of training, of competitions. You lose a match, you are on the training ground two days later ”.
Raducanu is expected to compete in Korea next month and hopes to be able to quickly put this defeat behind him.
“In the past, I felt really, really down because I wasn’t used to losing,” she said. “I think this year has definitely helped in a way.
“I know I can’t really cry over a loss. I got better at recovering faster and faster. But that obviously hurts a little bit because it’s my favorite tournament and obviously it has given a lot of excitement over the past year.
“I am proud to play every game, every day. I know I’m pushing myself to be the best I can ”.