Emma Raducanu lost to Coco Gauff in Melbourne
British number one Emma Raducanu crashed out of the Australian Open after losing in straight sets to Coco Gauff in a tense second round match.
Raducanu, ranked 77th in the world, put in a fine display against the seventh seed from the United States, but a lack of matches saw him lose 6-3 7-6 (7-4).
The 20 year old battled an ankle injury prior to the Melbourne major.
Defeat means Raducanu has not reached the third round of a Grand Slam since his stunning win at the 2021 US Open.
Had he been able to take either of the two set points at 5-4 in the second – which would have forced a decider – perhaps the result would have been different.
“I thought I had a lot of chances and I created a few. Losing definitely sucks,” said Raducanu.
“Coco is a great mover, a great athlete. He plays another ball, so you feel like you have to press him closer to the line and then he makes you make mistakes.”
Teen Gauff, who reached the last 16 of Wimbledon as a 15-year-old in 2019, is one of the favorites to win the title at Melbourne Park.
“I said to myself hang on, Emma played really good tennis towards the end,” said 18-year-old Gauff.
“For the most part it was a good quality match. It was a long awaited game, so I’m happy it was a good game for the crowd.”
Raducanu’s elimination means there is no longer any British interest in the women’s singleeeeees, with Cameron Norrie, Andy Murray and Dan Evans still in the men’s draw.
Raducanu was able to take pride and positivity from his performance
Raducanu admitted it was a “huge achievement” to step onto the pitch at Melbourne Park this week following the ankle injury he sustained in Auckland 13 days ago.
Twisted left ankle meant she had to pull out of Slovakia’s match against Viktoria Kuzmova, leaving Raducanu in tears as she left the pitch.
Prior to her opening match against Germany’s Tamara Korpatsch, she said she “completely trusted” her ankle but her movement will always be tested more against Gauff.
The trouble didn’t seem to be a factor as Raducanu went head-to-head with the French Open finalist in a match packed with intense baseline rallies.
Raducanu grew in confidence as the match progressed, playing with the front foot and pinning Gauff back with aggressive and accurate groundstrokes.
However, the lack of playing time on court was also demonstrated by a few loose shots that sent Gauff through at key moments, including when the Briton missed two set points with a somewhat impatient backhand and then a drop-shot at goal.
Despite the painful defeat, Raducanu will definitely look back on this performance with a lot of pride and positivity for the future.
“I know that I’m not going to beat Coco right now by pushing the ball in and trying to outrun him. I don’t want to play like that either,” he said.
“I have a vision to be an aggressive player and I think that is also the way I want to play in the future.”
Raducanu and Gauff, who became friends on tour, hugged each other after the entertaining match
The start of a long rivalry?
Eyes immediately turned to the potential of this fixture when the draw for the first Grand Slam tournament of the 2023 season was made last week – and the battle between two of the sport’s most exciting prospects did not disappoint.
True, a lot of errors flowed from both rackets. But there are many qualities of an entertaining match that will interest many to see this develop into a long and enduring rivalry.
Gauff is a younger player with more experience, but Raducanu is a man who is already a major champion – a title Gauff is looking to add to his resume this season.
That’s what makes this match such an exciting prospect.
Gauff warmed up for the Australian Open by winning the WTA event in Auckland and looked set to cruise to victory when she was one set and one break.
But doubts began to creep into his game – especially on his forehand side – as Raducanu came back in the second set.
Old misses returned as a double fault gave Raducanu three break chances at 4-3 and the American succumbed to the first with an unconvincing forehand shot at goal.
However, Gauff showed greater experience to rebuild mentally and through the tie-break.
Aiming for her first Grand Slam win, she will face fellow American Bernarda Pera in the third round on Friday.
BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller
Playing in episode two. There’s more than just a hint at the rivalry one hopes to find one day, especially in the game’s extraordinary climax.
With Raducanu hitting the ball in all-out attack mode, Gauff’s defense was phenomenal and this is what changed the all-important tie-break.
Raducanu said he was playing in excruciating pain, having pushed his body “over the limit” here in Melbourne.
His plans for the next few weeks have yet to be decided, but the 20-year-old says he is in no rush to return to competition. His instinct was that first he needed more time on the practice pitch.