Emma Raducanu faltered in her first match since winning the US Open last month, falling 6-2 6-4 to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the second round of the Indian Wells tennis tournament on Friday (Oct 8).
The 18-year-old British sensation had an aura of invincibility at Flushing Meadows, where at a tournament qualifier she did not drop a set in 10 matches en route to her stunning maiden Grand Slam title.
But it was a different story under the lights on the stadium court as Raducanu struggled with her accuracy and energy level.
Unforced errors piled up as the night wore on and she never exuded the on-court joy that was a hallmark of her breakthrough despite a supportive crowd.
After the match, she tipped her hat to the unseeded Belarusian.
"Aliaksandra played a great match," the 17th seed said.
"She's an extremely experienced opponent who has been on the Tour for many years. She was better than me today so she deserves to win."
The match started promisingly enough for Raducanu when she held serve at love to kick off the affair in the Southern California desert.
But errors began to creep in and a locked-in Sasnovich took full advantage, floating a lob over Raducanu's outstretched racket to claim the first set.
Raducanu was broken to begin the second set but battled back to take a 4-2 lead when Sasnovich began to misfire.
The world number 100 was able to right the ship, winning the final four games and sealing the match when Raducanu sent a service return wide on match point.
Raducanu said that while she was disappointed with the result, she sees every match as an opportunity to learn.
"The experiences that I'm going through right now, even though I might not feel 100per cent amazing right now, I know they're for the greater good," she said.
"In the bigger picture, I'll be thanking this moment," she said.
"I'm 18 years old. I need to cut myself some slack," she added later.
In the wake of her Grand Slam triumph, Raducanu attended the Met Gala in New York, the James Bond movie premier in London and even hit-up with British Royalty and admitted she was not "match-tight" at the moment.
"I haven't played a competition in a month, since the US Open. That will just come playing week in, week out," she said.
Sasnovich will next face Simona Halep in the third round of the WTA 1000 event, which was not held last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)