Why Emma Raducanu can take more in defeat than victorious Coco Gauff
Emma Raducanu should take more encouragement from her defeat against Coco Gauff at the Australian Open than her opponent can glean from her win.
That statement cannot be applied to many tennis matches, as the winner takes all in a sport that rarely offers solace for those who finish second.
Yet Raducanu’s 6-3 7-6 (4) defeat offers encouraging signs that her US Open win back in 2021 will not be her last on the biggest stage.
Matching Gauff in a majority of the rallies and showing flashes of the brilliance that took her to that title in New York, the Brit displayed all the traits of a player waiting to explode and take the game by storm all over again.
Unforced errors were her undoing in this match and had her shot selection been more solid when she had set point at 5-4 in the second, Gauff may well have cracked under the pressure that was being applied.
In the end, unforced errors and what appeared to be a stomach problem cost Raducanu the match, but former British No 1 Tim Henman summed up Emma’s performance perfectly.
“Emma has unbelievable ball-striking skills and great technique. That’s why she won the US Open,” Henman told Eurosport.
“But you have to get the balance between being aggressive and making unforced errors.
“There were 83 unforced errors between both players and it comes down to the mentality of getting the ball back into play.
“Emma’s level was right there. She was the one dictating a lot of these points, but she has to stay in the rallies longer and not make unforced errors. If she does that, she can win big titles again.”
Henman was right to highlight the area Raducanu needs to work on and it can be solved with experience of top-level matches.
The problems for Gauff may be harder to eradicate.
Essentially, the American won this match because Raducanu missed too many balls and of the seven points she won the second set tie-break, five were gifted to her by misses from her opponent.
The biggest concern for Gauff has to be her tendency to get nervous and lose her way in matches, which was evident again as she led in the second set.
With Raducanu clearly struggling with her stomach problem, Gauff should have seized the moment and made sure there was no way back for the Brit.
Instead, she went into her shell and appeared to be struggling to hit through her forehand due to crippling nerves.
Images of her mother with her head in her hands and looking as if her daughter was in a crisis will not have helped Coco’s mood.
And if she is getting this nervous while leading a second round match, it is hard to imagine she will be able to hold it together mentally if the scoreboard is tight in a semi-final or final next week.
This will not be the last time we see Gauff and Raducanu do battle on the game’s biggest stages and on the evidence of this meeting, the victor has more to solve than her rival.
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