Australian Open: Emma Raducanu is only focused on her next match, Andy Murray determined to back up opening win


Raz Mirza

Interviews, Comment & Analysis @RazMirza

Emma Raducanu not thinking of a potential third-round date with her idol Simona Halep as she prepares to face Danka Kovinic; Andy Murray wants to ‘back up’ his five-set first-round victory; fellow Brits Heather Watson & Dan Evans also in action at the Australian Open

Last Updated: 19/01/22 12:50pm

Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray are back in action at the Australian Open on Thursday

Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray are back in action at the Australian Open on Thursday

Emma Raducanu is only focusing on her next match rather than thinking about a potential blockbuster clash with Simona Halep, while Andy Murray is determined to back up his opening win against Taro Daniel at the Australian Open on Thursday.

Raducanu has been pleasantly surprised by the hard work she has been able to put in within the short space of time with her new coach Torben Beltz, despite an ill-timed bout of Covid-19 last month.

The teenager is now preparing for a meeting with Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic on Thursday, with a potential third-round date with two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep on the horizon.

Raducanu bounced back in emphatic fashion to record her 11th career Grand Slam victory in her last 12 matches by seeing off former US Open champion Sloane Stephens to fly through her opening test in Melbourne.

She will return to Margaret Court Arena hoping to continue her winning form against world No 98 Kovinic, who was beaten 6-0 6-0 by Ashleigh Barty here last year.

Raducanu hopes against a showdown against her idol, Halep, have already been scuppered at Indian Wells and the Transylvania Open last year and thoughts of a potential clash for the third time have been put on the backburner for now.

“I mean, of course it would be an amazing opportunity, but I have been in this position where people have asked me at two different tournaments and it didn’t happen,” said Raducanu.

“I just really want to focus on business and getting myself in as best shape as possible.”

The 19-year-old has certainly been surprised at the progress she has been able to make in such a short time frame, adding: “If you would have asked me a week ago after Sydney if I could turn it around this quickly, I would have been surprised, pleasantly.

“I definitely am very proud of myself how far I’ve come over the last few weeks and just having that positive attitude after getting one game on the scoreboard last week, to not let that defeat me and actually just keep working and chipping away, and I was rewarded for it.”

Having stayed in school to complete her A-Levels last spring, Raducanu has only been a full-time tennis player for a few months, and she is likely to pursue more academic goals in the future.

She is working on her Mandarin in Melbourne but the day job is very much taking precedence.

“I’m actually speaking Mandarin with my mum and some of the Chinese players here,” said the 17th seed.

“But I literally spend 12 hours a day at the club. Everyone in my team is like, ‘What are you doing?’ But I feel like I don’t know where the time goes.”

Murray aims to back up win; Daniel amazed by Scots passion

Murray is back on John Cain Arena for his second-round match against Taro Daniel

Murray is back on John Cain Arena for his second-round match against Taro Daniel

Murray is one of four British players through to the second round along with Raducanu, Dan Evans and Heather Watson.

After marking his return to Melbourne Park in a typically-dramatic fashion by defeating Nikoloz Basilashvili in close to four hours, the five-time finalist here is now preparing to take on Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel.

On paper, Daniel is a much-less fearsome opponent than Basilashvili. He is ranked 120th and took only five games off Murray in three sets in their only previous meeting in Davis Cup in 2016.

“He’s a solid player, moves very well,” said Murray. “No big weaknesses in his game. It will be a good test for me to see how I can back up the performance (against Basilashvili).”

Daniel was full of praise for wild card Murray and his battling qualities with the former world No 1 having come back from hip replacement surgery and is now closing in on the top 100.

He said: “It’s always crazy to imagine what a person has gone through with that heavy of an injury has to go through mentally and how much are you going to keep damaging your body? That’s something I’ve asked myself.

“But it’s amazing to see how much passion he has for the game and how much he is willing to go through to keep playing. He doesn’t seem to care if he’s not top 10 or top 100. He was playing Challengers last year which was amazing – I thought that was crazy. I have a lot of respect for that.

“I will prepare for the match just like anybody else and see how it goes. I hope he’s a little bit tired.”

Watson ready for rematch; Evans enjoying working with new coach

Watson struggled in 2021 but has started this season with a new zest for the sport and was impressive in beating Mayar Sherif in round one.

Now she gets another crack at 29th seed and last year’s French Open semi-finalist Tamara Zidansek, who she lost a very close match to in Adelaide last week.

“I am really looking forward to playing her,” said Watson. “I played well in that match, especially in the first set and I just lost my focus and that’s all it was. So that’s an easy fix.”

Evans is enjoying working with Juan Martin Del Potro's old coach despite not being able to speak any Spanish

Evans is enjoying working with Juan Martin Del Potro’s old coach despite not being able to speak any Spanish

Evans, who continued his excellent start to the year by easing past David Goffin in round one, takes on another in-form player in France’s Arthur Rinderknech.

The British No 2 has been working with Argentine coach Sebastian Prieto, long-time mentor of Juan Martin Del Potro, since last spring and has a lot of faith in the partnership.

“I was sceptical at the start,” said Evans. “He’s Argentinian, I speak zero Spanish. His English is pretty good. But it’s worked well. He’s very relaxed. Relaxed but fair. Tough, as well.

“I have really enjoyed it. I hope he’s enjoying it. I imagine he must be. He’s still around. I really enjoy spending time with him. It’s a different way to train and look at the game. It’s definitely opened my eyes a bit.”

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