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Australian Open: Emma Raducanu ‘relieved’ to cross first hurdle

British teenager sees off experienced American Sloane Stephens in a topsy-turvy contest
Emma Raducanu serves against Sloane Stephens at Melbourne Park on Tuesday.
Emma Raducanu serves against Sloane Stephens at Melbourne Park on Tuesday.
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Agencies   |   Published 19.01.22, 02:30 AM

Britain’s teenager Emma Raducanu cleared a dangerous first-round hurdle at the Australian Open, seeing off experienced American Sloane Stephens 6-0, 2-6, 6-1 in a topsy-turvy contest on Tuesday.

Raducanu, who rocketed to fame in September with a fairytale run to the US Open title as a qualifier without dropping a set in what was only her fourth senior tournament, raced through the opening set in 17 minutes, leaking only four points.


But former world No. 3 Stephens found her rhythm to take the second set as errors began creeping in to 17th seed Raducanu’s game. But Raducanu settled down to dominate the decider with some precision baseline hitting as Stephens unravelled again.

“It was a tough match-up for a first round so I’m just happy to get through,” Raducanu said.

However, there will be no Australian Open fairytale for Leylah Fernandez after a bad day at the office saw the Canadian teenager bundled out in the first round by Maddison Inglis of Australia.

The 19-year-old’s run to the US Open final against Emma Raducanu was one of the stories of last year but Melbourne Park is not a happy hunting ground for her.  The 6-4, 6-2 loss to the Australian wildcard marked the third straight year Fernandez had fallen at the first hurdle at the year’s opening grand slam.

Swiatek through

Seventh seed Iga Swiatek made a stuttering start to her campaign but was soon into her grand slam groove to reach the second round for the fourth straight year.

 The former French Open champion had to battle back from an early break to oust Briton Harriet Dart 6-3, 6-0 on Rod Laver Arena and set up a second round clash with Swede Rebecca Peterson.

“I’m pretty happy that I was patient, I found the rhythm throughout the match. That’s pretty positive.”

 Garbine Muguruza struggled to close out the contest but advanced comfortably enough with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over feisty young Frenchwoman Clara Burel. Twice former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova said she was unsurprised at bowing out in the opening round after a difficult month Down Under. The 2019 Australian Open finalist was ousted by Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-2.

Australian Sam Stosur got her campaign off to a good start, beating Robin Anderson 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-3 in her opener.

Clinical Medvedev

Daniil Medvedev conserved his energy after his shortest ever off-season with an efficient straight-sets win over Swiss battler Henri Laaksonen. US Open champion Medvedev had only 14 days’ rest at the end of 2021 before firing up for Russia’s run to the ATP Cup semi-finals this month.

“It’s definitely not enough (off-season),” the Russian told reporters after his 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (3) win in the afternoon sun at Rod Laver Arena. Greek world No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas eased past familiar opponent Mikael Ymer of Sweden during a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 victory in the opening round.

Tsitsipas said he considered himself one of the best on hardcourts with world No.1 Novak Djokovic deported from the country. Andy Murray dipped into the depth of his defensive skills to tame big-hitting Nikoloz Basilashvili during a thrilling 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7(5) 6-4 win to reach the second round of the Australian Open for the first time in five years.

“It’s amazing. It’s been a tough three-four years. I’ve put in a lot of work to get back here,” Murray said in his on-court interview.

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