Emma Raducanu: British No 1 defeats Sloane Stephens to make winning start on her Australian Open debut

Raz Mirza

Interviews, Comment & Analysis @RazMirza

Emma Raducanu wins a topsy-turvy Australian Open contest against Sloane Stephens to reach the second round on her Melbourne debut; the 17th seed will take on world No 98 Danka Kovinic of Montenegro for a spot in the third round on Thursday

Last Updated: 18/01/22 1:16pm

Emma Raducanu made a dream start to her Australian Open campaign with victory against Sloane Stephens

Emma Raducanu made a dream start to her Australian Open campaign with victory against Sloane Stephens

Emma Raducanu made a winning start to her Australian Open campaign as the British No 1 defeated American Sloane Stephens 6-0 2-6 6-1 to reach the second round in Melbourne.

Four months on from her remarkable US Open triumph, the teenager from Kent produced a floorless first set bagel before the experienced American struck back.

Raducanu regained her composure in the third set to complete a confidence-boosting victory on Margaret Court Arena.

“I just want to thank everyone for coming out and staying so late,” said Raducanu.

“Both me and Sloane really put everything out there. I thought it was a really high-quality match with lots of great rallies so I’m really happy to have come through against such a great champion.

“It was a tough match-up for a first round. Her athleticism is really up there. I was having to work extremely hard for my points but I’m so happy to have got through. I was very pleased.

“Coming out for the first set, I thought I played some very good tennis. Of course, there was going to be some adversity.

“I’m happy to have regrouped. In the third, I don’t think the score really reflected it. I was really feeling it.”

She made a sensational start to her Melbourne campaign, racing through the opening set game in a perfect 17 minutes.

The 19-year-old lost just four points on serve – winning 24 – in a blistering opening set which was reminiscent of the kind of tennis which saw her embark on a fairytale run in New York as a qualifier.

Stephens, who arrived late in Melbourne after getting married to football player Jozy Altidore in Florida on New Year’s Day, struggled to cope with the powerful groundstrokes coming from the British No 1.

Raducanu has only just returned to full training with new coach Torben Beltz after an ill-timed bout of coronavirus that kept her off court for three weeks.

The 17th seed was playing in just her fifth tournament since the US Open and in the previous four she has managed only two wins, losing her opening match three times.

Her lack of matches appeared to catch up with her in the second set as the adrenaline rush of the opener dissipated with the 2017 US Open champion shrugging off the cobwebs to find a way back into the contest, winning four games in a row from 2-2 to send the contest into a first decider at this level for Raducanu.

Stephens has dropped back to 68 in the rankings but she has a habit of rising to the occasion in the big matches, beating Petra Kvitova, Madison Keys, Coco Gauff and Karolina Pliskova at the Grand Slams last season.

But Raducanu responded brilliantly, showing excellent resilience to dampen Stephens’ momentum, as she took control of the match.

She took a commanding 4-0 lead before showing signs of tension in her shoulders, but Raducanu asserted herself to move one game away from victory.

Although Stephens stopped the rot with a hold, Raducanu served it out after an hour and 45 minutes to set up a meeting with world No 98 Danka Kovinic of Montenegro on Thursday.

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