Emma Raducanu defeats Sloane Stephens in first round

Tennis

Reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu has advanced to the second round of the Australian Open after a tense three-set match against American star Sloane Stephens, 6-0, 2-6, 6-1.

In a first-round match-up of two US Open champions, Raducanu looked like she was headed for an easy victory after a dominant opening set.

The 19-year-old clinched three big breaks in a set that lasted just 17 minutes and looked comfortable before Stephens stepped it up in the second.

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After only two unforced errors in the first set, it was a different scenario in the second for Raducanu, who then notched a whopping 19 as Stephens broke on three occasions.

But in the decider, Raducanu reminded fans at Margaret Court Arena just why she’s one of the most exciting young talents.

Incredibly, despite having won a grand slam it was the first time she has ever been pushed to three sets in a major.

Holding her service game on each occasion and breaking the American’s twice, Raducanu enjoyed what appeared to be a fairly simple deciding set en route to her first-round victory.

“Coming out in the first set, I thought I played some very good tennis with very little unforced errors, but of course, there was going to be some adversity,” Raducanu said in her on-court interview.

“I don’t think the score really reflected the level out there because I was really feeling it and trying to get every ball in.

“It was a tough match-up for a first round. I’m just very happy.

“I knew there was going to be some really long rallies and her athleticism is really up there.

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“I was having to work really hard for my points, but I’m so happy to have gotten through.”

Heading into the Australian Open, Raducanu looked to be in some shaky form after suffering a heavy straight sets defeat to No.12-ranked Elena Rybakina at the Sydney International.

Prior to tonight’s win, the teenager had only two wins on the WTA Tour since her stunning run at Flushing Meadows in September last year.

Raducanu also famously raised eyebrows within tennis circles when she split from her coach, Andrew Richardson, just weeks after the history-making Grand Slam victory.

Raducanu will play No.98-ranked Danka Kovinic in the second round.

The match brought Day 2 to a close, finishing minutes after men’s fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas wrapped up the program on Rod Laver Arena with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 win over Mikael Ymer.

Tsitsipas, a runner-up at the French Open and a semifinalist in Australia last year, will play Sebastian Baez in the next round.

– with AP

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