A brave comeback ensued after the first set but injury hampered the British No1 toward the end
Emma Raducanu‘s stellar season came to a disappointing end with defeat by Chinese qualifier Wang Xinyu in Austria on the day the identity of her new coach was revealed.
The 18-year-old was the top seed at a WTA Tour event for the first time at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz having won her first matches on the main circuit only two weeks ago but she could not add to that here, losing 6-1 6-7 (0) 7-5 to 106th-ranked Wang at the TipsArena.
Raducanu will now take a little bit of time off to recharge and reflect on her remarkable progress before beginning work in pre-season with German Torben Beltz. Raducanu had struggled with illness after her quarter-final loss at the Transylvania Open two weeks ago but gave a positive assessment of her health on her arrival in Austria.
She began with an ace and held serve in the first game but from there the first set sped by in the wrong direction, with Raducanu unable to find her range and Wang playing inspired tennis.
The 20-year-old is a former world junior number two who has seen her progress stalled by injuries and difficulties travelling to and from China over the last 18 months.
But she has been in impressive form under new British coach Iain Hughes, including winning three matches here, and overpowered Raducanu from the baseline, seizing on any short balls and lapping up her opponent’s errors.
Raducanu improved in the second set, while Wang dropped from the stellar heights she had been inhabiting, and it went to a tie-break after the top seed twice failed to hold onto a break.
Her serving in particular was now really firing and, helped by a couple of generous errors from Wang, Raducanu finished the set with a run of 10 points in a row.
Wang found her best form again in the decider, though, and broke Raducanu to lead 5-4, after which the British number one took a medical time-out for treatment to her upper right leg.
The timing was certainly unfortunate for Wang, while Raducanu did not look entirely comfortable, but she found some of her best tennis of the contest to save two match points and hit back to level at 5-5.
However, Raducanu could not hold onto her own serve again and Wang took her second chance to serve out one of the best victories of her career after two hours and 36 minutes.
Raducanu has been coaching herself in Linz but Beltz has no doubt been following her progress and this was another demonstration that, despite being a grand slam champion, she is still a novice at the top level.
In announcing her somewhat-surprising decision not to continue with Andrew Richardson, who had been by her side in New York, Raducanu highlighted the need to have someone experienced in the women’s game beside her and she will certainly have that in 44-year-old German Beltz.
Spaniard Esteban Carril was the only name that emerged publicly from a series of trials Raducanu held with coaches last month but, as first reported by the Daily Telegraph, a picture of Raducanu with Beltz and her agent Chris Helliar at a cafe in Orpington was posted on an Instagram fan page.
And PA has learned it is the German, described as a gentle giant, who will link up with Raducanu as she prepares for the start of the 2022 season.
Beltz has spent much of the last 20 years coaching Angelique Kerber, including during her standout season in 2016, when she won two grand slam titles, finished runner-up at Wimbledon and reached world number one.
He also had a successful spell coaching Croatia’s Donna Vekic prior to linking up again with Kerber for a third time last summer and helping the 33-year-old return briefly to the top 10.
Kerber revealed on Monday that she had parted ways with Beltz once more, paving the way for him to begin work with Raducanu.
Kerber has described Beltz as “the most positive person I know” and he is known as a compassionate and likeable presence on the WTA Tour, someone who will put an arm around his player rather than a hard taskmaster.
An all-round sports fan, the father of two shares Raducanu’s passion for analysing matches and also puts a lot of emphasis on physical work, which the British number one has highlighted as the key area she needs to improve.