Teenaged US Open champion Emma Raducanu cleared a dangerous first-round hurdle at the Australian Open, seeing off fellow grand slam winner Sloane Stephens 6-0, 2-6, 6-1 in a topsy-turvy contest late on Tuesday night.
- Raducanu tested positive to COVID-19 in the build-up to the Australian Open
- The US Open champion plays Danka Kovinic in the next round
- Stefanos Tsitsipas got past Mikael Ymer in straight sets
In another match that finished close to midnight, men’s fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas earned a spot in the second round after defeating Swede Mikael Ymer 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena.
Britain’s Raducanu initially rose to fame with a fourth round run as a wildcard on her grand slam debut at Wimbledon last year before she stunned the tennis world by winning the US Open as a qualifier.
She did not drop a set in New York in what was only her fifth WTA level tournament and showed similar form early against Stephens when she raced through the opening set in 17 minutes, leaking only four points.
Stephens — the 2017 US Open champion and a former world number three — finally found her rhythm and range to take charge of the second set from 2-2, reeling off four games as errors began creeping into 17th seed Raducanu’s game.
It looked ominous at that point for the 19-year-old Raducanu, whose build-up to her Australian Open debut had hardly been ideal, after she contracted COVID-19 and was crushed 6-0, 6-1 by Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina in her opening match of the year, in Sydney.
But she showed the same coolness under pressure that swept her to the US Open championship, settling down and finding another gear to dominate the decider with some precision baseline hitting as the Stephens game unravelled again.
Stephens avoided another rout as she held serve at 0-5 but there was not to be another twist on a sparsely-populated Margaret Court Arena, as Raducanu closed out the win on serve, despite a sixth double fault on her first match point.
It was an encouraging start for Raducanu and she will be heavily fancied to get past 99th ranked Danka Kovinic of Montenegro in the second round.