The exuberant and carefree Emma Raducanu of late summer 2021 has taken a few hard knocks this year.
Signs of recovery were evident in her performances in both Washington and Cincinnati, but a lack of matches and confidence left her vulnerable to an opponent of the quality and experience of Alize Cornet.
The blisters on the 19-year-old’s racquet hand probably made no difference to the result, but they are a reminder of the sequence of minor injuries that have contributed to a fitful season.
Life on the tour will be a little different for the foreseeable future.
Raducanu will still be a draw on the show courts – and a desirable scalp for her peers. But with a ranking that will be about 80 come the end of the US Open, seedings and first-round byes will dry up, and qualifying for some events will be back on the agenda.
“Qualifying isn’t always a bad thing, as I displayed last year,” she reminded me, after the straight-set defeat to Cornet in the first match of her US Open defense.
Raducanu spoke of a “clean slate”, and plans to play some smaller tournaments between now and the end of the season, starting in Seoul in just under three weeks’ time.
Four weeks remain of the WTA season after that, plus the chance to represent Great Britain in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Glasgow. Raducanu has only been able to play 29 matches this season, so will seek to put this remaining time to very good use.
A first-round exit in New York rather masks the fact that Raducanu has taken a step forward in the last six weeks.
She has looked stronger and fitter in the eight matches she has played in North America since spending the best part of two weeks training at the IMG Academy in Florida at the end of July.
Raducanu impressed onlookers with how hard she worked, often putting in two tough physical sessions a day.
Her gradual improvement has coincided with the arrival of Dmitry Tursunov, the Russian coach who has enjoyed much success with Aryna Sabalenka and Anett Kontaveit since ending his playing career in 2017.
Kontaveit won five titles in the 10 months they worked together, including four from seven starts at the end of last year. She was only denied a fifth title, by Garbine Muguruza, in the championship match of the WTA Finals.
Kontaveit rose from 28th to second in the world rankings in that short time, and their split in June came as a big surprise. The Estonian suggested Tursunov’s difficulties securing visas were a factor.
Having a traveling Russian coach, at a time his country’s invasion of Ukraine shows no sign of ending, is likely to continue to throw up logistical problems.
There could be an image problem, too. The All England Club, do not forget, banned Russian players from this year’s Wimbledon partly because they felt it was what the British public would expect.