- Emma Raducanu recently returned to playing after eight months out with injury
- The 21-year-old has been making encouraging strides on her comeback so far
- But she exited the Abu Dhabi Open at the last-16 stage, losing to Ons Jabeur
Emma Raducanu showed signs of promise before being outgunned by Ons Jabeur in the second round of the Abu Dhabi Open.
The former US Open champion had a fine win in the first round against world No26 Marie Bouzkova in her third tournament after nine months out recovering from wrist and ankle injuries. But No2 seed and two-time Wimbledon finalist Jabeur was a class above, hitting 35 winners and just 11 unforced errors to win 6-4, 6-1.
But her 21-year-old opponent was impressive in coming back from 5-1 down in the first set, saving four set points, and her backhand continues to look a formidable weapon.
After the fairytale of New York, the whirlwind of going from A Level student to full-time WTA pro and the perhaps inevitable injuries that followed, this feels like the start of the second phase of Raducanu’s career.
Here’s hoping expectations – her own and the British public – are managed and she is allowed the room to find her game through a more normal career trajectory.
Emma Raducanu’s bid to reach the last eight of the Abu Dhabi Open was ended in straight sets by world number six Ons Jabeur
Jabeur was too good for Raducanu, but she continues to make strides on her return from injury
Serving in the first game of the match Raducanu took a 40-15 lead but missed two routine put-aways to be dragged back to deuce, and conceded the break with a huge double fault.
Frustratingly for the British player it was that game which ultimately proved the difference in a 6-4 first set.
Jabeur is known for her magic box of drop shots and slices but it was the flat power of her slapped forehand that did the bulk of the damage.
‘She didn’t make it easy for me,’ said the 29-year-old Tunisian after the match. ‘I’m a big fan of Emma and I know she can play better.’
Raducanu has now lost in the second round in five of her last eight tournaments. Though at opposite poles of their careers, she has been similar to Andy Murray over the last couple of years in terms of struggling to string results together.
Jabeur hailed Raducanu as an ‘amazing player’ and wished her the best going forwards
Meanwhile, in Lausanne, former Wimbledon champion and world No1 Simona Halep began her appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against a four-year doping ban. The 32-year-old Romanian has been provisionally suspended since October 2022 after testing positive for roxadustat, a banned drug that stimulates the production of red blood cells.
Her hearing lasts three days. If it fails, it would likely spell the end of Halep’s stellar career.