Emma Raducanu made light work of American Shelby Rogers with a 6-3 6-2 first-round victory at the Australian Open, 12 months on from her last Grand Slam appearance.
Raducanu, who made her return to tennis two weeks ago after eight months out to have surgery on both wrists and one ankle, put in an aggressive display as she did at the Auckland Classic earlier this month.
The 21-year-old will play China’s Wang Yafan in the next round on Thursday and if she wins that, it’s possible there will be an all-British class in the last 32 between Raducanu and Katie Boulter, who progressed earlier on Tuesday.
Raducanu beat Rogers in the fourth round of the 2021 US Open on her way to a memorable Grand Slam title at the age of 19. That match was also won in straight sets and it was a similar story two-and-a-half years on.
With the crowd on her side, Raducanu broke in the third game and comfortably held her serve to take the opening set.
She broke at the start of the second and took a crucial hold when Rogers got back to deuce on multiple occasions but wasn’t able to make a break point opportunity.
Raducanu made it a double break in the fifth game and continued to hold serve as she reached the second round in Melbourne for a third consecutive year.
It was a solid display from Raducanu given she pulled out of two exhibition matches last week, electing to use the practice courts in Melbourne instead.
She won 91 per cent of points on her first serve, underlining her strong service games but also took opportunities when she got them.
Raducanu vs Rogers: Tale of the Tape
|1st serve won percentage
|2nd serve won percentage
|Net points won percentage
|Break points won
|Total points won
Raducanu’s aggressive game is back!
Sky Sports’ Raz Mirza:
Very impressive performance from Raducanu, who played a near-perfect match to earn her first Grand Slam win in exactly a year – January 16, 2023 also at the Australian Open.
Raducanu won 30 of 33 points on her first serve with a total of 16 winners, but you also have to remember that she was playing Rogers, who was also coming off a period of inactivity after knee surgery, an abdominal injury and a December wedding.
Accompanying Raducanu in Melbourne is new coach Nick Cavaday, who she originally worked with a decade ago and you can see what they’ve been working on together during the off-season.
She has returned determined to play her aggressive game style having felt she had unintentionally moved away from that.
Now a winnable second-round clash against China’s world No 94 Yafang Wang before a potential mouth-watering encounter against fellow Brit Katie Boulter – who wouldn’t want to see that!?
Boulter wins first Australian Open match since 2019
British No 1 Boulter defeated China’s Yuan Yue in straight sets for her first Australian Open main draw victory in five years.
Boulter had lost in qualifying in Melbourne the previous two years but made rapid strides up the rankings in 2023 and was impressive in a 7-5 7-6 (7-1) win over in-form Yuan.
The only missed step from Boulter, who has been the subject of a lot of attention as the girlfriend of Australia’s big hope Alex de Minaur, was two match points that went begging on her own serve at 5-4 in the second set.
But she regrouped well and dominated the tie-break for just her second main-draw victory at Melbourne Park.
Boulter headed into this year’s first Grand Slam ranked 57 and full of confidence after a great start to 2024.
At the United Cup in Perth, Boulter claimed the biggest victory of her career over world No 5 Jessica Pegula and has her sights set on another sizeable leap this year.
It was a tight contest throughout but Boulter showed once again that she is a player for the big occasion, coming out on top in nearly all the key moments.
A break for 6-5 in the opening set gave her the chance to serve it out, which she took in hot, breezy conditions.
Yuan, ranked seven places lower than Boulter at 61 in the world, reached the semi-finals of the WTA Tour event in Hobart last week, and there was nothing to separate the pair in the second set until the Brit, who had been under more pressure on her serve, broke to lead 5-4.
But her composure wavered at the wrong time, the 27-year-old serving a double fault on her first match point and then making a backhand error on the second as Yuan pulled back level.
She did not dwell on the missed opportunities, though, winning the first five points of the tie-break and taking her third match point to seal her first win in Melbourne since beating Ekaterina Makarova in 2019.
“It was very tricky conditions today. I don’t feel like it was my best tennis out there. I feel like I found a way. You know, to be out there winning matches at a Grand Slam where ultimately I’m not quite at the level where I wanted to be, I think that kind of shows how far I’ve come in the past few years,” said Boulter.
“I expect a lot of myself, but I’m still here through to the second round, and I’m proud of myself for the way that I fought and found a way ultimately.
“I managed to bring some of the better tennis that I played of the day out in the biggest moment. I think if I’ve learned anything over these years, that’s what the best players in the world do, they bring the best that they’ve got in the most important times. I did that well today.”
Boulter also joined fellow Britons Cameron Norrie and Jack Draper in the second round.
Third seed Elena Rybakina made quick work of Czech Karolina Pliskova in her opening round encounter, winning 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 in 93 minutes.
Rybakina, the runner-up in Melbourne last year, sent down six aces and 25 winners en route to a routine victory.
Jelena Ostapenko, the 11th seed, stormed past Aussie wild card Kimberly Birrell in straight sets, winning 7-6 (7-5) 6-1.
The Latvian sent down five aces and 28 winners while making a typically high 35 unforced errors as she closed out the match in 100 minutes.
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