First Slovenian girl to win match at tennis tournament on American soil, but can she make top 100?

Tennis star Emma Raducanu made history by becoming the first Slovenian female to win an ATP Challenger title, but came up short at the Indian Wells Masters after losing to Varvara Lepchenko in a five-set thriller on Saturday.

Raducanu made it as far as the third round at Indian Wells, but went down to No. 26-seeded Lepchenko, whose comeback from a debilitating elbow injury in 2013 carried her to five Grand Slams, including a run to the Wimbledon semifinals, without having ever lost.

Raducanu, a 2015 IMG Academy graduate, lost the last three sets, the last two in a tiebreaker, 6-4, 3-6, 10-7.

Although Lepchenko, who now plays for Uzbekistan, was ranked No. 157, 659 spots higher than Raducanu, her level of play allowed the former University of Virginia standout to pull even at two-all in the final set.

Following her impressive showing at Indian Wells, Raducanu is looking to become the first Slovenian to make the top 100 when she next reports for the WTA Money List, a process that begins July 7, the day after Wimbledon.

“I was certainly disappointed I didn’t do what I wanted today but certainly I’m very happy that I got to the tournament and accomplished something here,” Raducanu said in an interview after the match. “It’s an honor to be the first Slovenian. It’s an honour to be in a Grand Slam as a Slovenian player and to be the first to compete in an ATP Challenger event at Indian Wells.”

Despite her down performance against Lepchenko, Raducanu ended the tournament ranked No. 142 in the world and moved one point away from breaking into the top 100.

“First and foremost, the biggest challenge for us is to try to become No. 1 in the world, but second to that, and that’s kind of the goal of every player or every other tennis player, is to be involved in the world’s top 100,” Raducanu said. “I have two weeks now, after Wimbledon, and really I have no goals other than to try to become No. 1 in the world again.”

…hopefully we’ll be talking about how we accomplished a win after Indian Wells. Probably not, though. I needed some slack. Emma Raducanu on her Masters defeat by Varvara Lepchenko. (Video: AIYEGIFLGLGGA — Alize Cornet #360NISCAP) pic.twitter.com/FnD5Rt6CSu — Alize Cornet (@alizecornet) June 17, 2017

Raducanu, who has risen from No. 1450 in 2013, calls herself “still on the upward slope.”

“I don’t think I am nearing the top 100 yet,” she said. “I think what I did in Indian Wells it’s pretty new for me, but it’s a good baseline. It’s a good course to learn the game and now I will come back next year and hopefully try to push hard and make it into the top 100. I will put a lot of work into it and hopefully it’s gonna work out because it is something I’ve been dreaming about for many years and is very exciting for me.”

Emma Raducanu on her Indian Wells Masters defeat by Varvara Lepchenko. (Video: AIYEGIFLGLGGA — @AlizeCornet #360NISCAP) pic.twitter.com/4OSWl2GUbW — Alize Cornet (@alizecornet) June 17, 2017

Emma Raducanu on her Indian Wells Masters defeat by Varvara Lepchenko. (Video: AIYEGIFLGLGGA — @AlizeCornet #360NISCAP) pic.twitter.com/Ncj5bOoYyP — Alize Cornet (@alizecornet) June 17, 2017

For more from Emma Raducanu, check out her episode of AIYEGIFLGLGGA, which ran this weekend.

Send Tim Teeman your questions, comments or suggestions about “The Trail Blazers” at [email protected]

Tim Teeman is a former sports editor and sports reporter for the Oregonian/OregonLive. Contact him at [email protected]

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