Emma Raducanu hopes the experience of her new coach Torben Beltz can help her build on a remarkable breakthrough season, which ended with defeat by qualifier Wang Xinyu in Austria.
The US Open champion was the top seed at a WTA Tour event for the first time at the Upper Austria Ladies in Linz having won her first matches on the main circuit only two weeks ago, but she could not add to that, losing 6-1, 6-7, 7-5 to 106th-ranked Wang at the TipsArena.
Raducanu had hoped to keep the identity of her new coach secret for a little while longer but it emerged on Tuesday that she will be guided through pre-season and into 2022 by 44-year-old Beltz, who is best known as the long-time mentor of three-time grand slam champion Angelique Kerber.
Kerber announced on Monday that she and Beltz had split for a third time, and Raducanu said: “You guys cracked it. It’s obviously a great privilege to be working with such an experienced coach.
“I’m definitely very excited to work with him throughout the pre-season and into next year. I’m feeling excited about all the work that is to come.
“I think he brings a lot of experience. Obviously he’s worked with Kerber, who’s such a great player and has done extremely well, won three slams. I think that experience definitely helps with someone as inexperienced as me.
“He can help guide me through, which I feel really confident about, and also he’s a really positive, cheerful guy who brings great energy to the team so I think that’s also important when you’re travelling on the road for quite a long time on the tour.”
This was another example that, despite being a grand slam champion, Raducanu is first and foremost a rookie at the top level and a player who still has a lot of steps to take and lessons to learn.
Twenty-year-old Chinese Wang, ranked 106 but on the rise, had already won three matches in Linz and that showed in the first set, which she powered through with six games in a row.
Raducanu, who struggled with illness after reaching the quarter-finals of the Transylvania Open at the end of last month, dug in well in the second set and played a flawless tie-break but Wang was not disheartened and raised her level again in the decider.
Raducanu took a medical time-out after suffering a hip spasm as she was broken for 5-4 and she saved two match points before breaking back, but Wang broke again and served out the victory after two hours and 36 minutes.
Raducanu wins US Open
“I thought it was a really high-level match,” said Raducanu. “I thought Xinyu played extremely well, especially in that first set and I’m proud of the way I fought to try to get back into the match.
“Everything was going her way and she was playing extremely well so a lot of credit to her for keeping that level out there on the court. In the third I had a hip spasm in the first point of that game and from there I was just fighting to try to stay in it.”
Simona Halep moved safely through to the quarter-finals but did not have things all her own way against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who beat her in Indian Wells last month.
Halep was pegged back having led 4-0 in the opening set but held firm to win 7-5, 6-3 and set up a clash with seventh seed Jasmine Paolini, who beat Zheng Saisai 6-1, 2-6, 6-4.
Wang will take on eighth seed Alison Riske, who saw off Alize Cornet 6-4 6-4, while third seed Danielle Collins was an emphatic winner in her first match of the tournament, beating Greet Minnen 6-1, 6-2.