Emma Raducanu took her most dominant win since last year’s US Open and first WTA clay-court win to advance to the second round in Stuttgart.
Raducanu, 19, boldly claimed earlier this week that clay court will one day be her favorite surface, and her first tour-level match suggested she might do better than initially expected, finding momentum in her 6-1 6-2 win. at the Australian Storm Sanders qualifier.
It was only her second win in a row this season, and the three games Raducanu allowed were the fewest since her fourth-round US Open against Shelby Rogers in September last year. It took her just 71 minutes to broadcast the Australian, displaying great composure the entire time.
“It certainly wasn’t [as easy as the scoreline suggests],,Raducanu said on the track afterwards. ,,I feel like there were a lot of long games that ended in two, so I’m really happy that I kept going against Storm. We played last year and she is a great opponent. I was very happy to get through those long races. I think it’s definitely the duration of the points [that I find difficult on clay], it’s something I need to work on more. It will improve my cunning and variety of shots.”
Until last week, Raducanu hadn’t played on clay in four years and the win on Wednesday followed her first-ever professional win on the surface last week, in Great Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup game against the Czech Republic.
Even though she faced a player who barely made it into the top 200 in Sanders, the win was still impressive as Raducanu seemingly comfortably slid across the clay and showed patience in selecting her shots, a key tactic on this surface.
It was all the more promising as the clay court is not only considered unsuitable for her flat-hitting basic game, but the match was played just a few days after she stumbled into Prague during her brutal loss to Marketa Vondrousova in the BJK Cup, where she suffered from debilitating foot blisters.
In Stuttgart, Raducanu looked completely rejuvenated. She was close to her best, with 83 percent of her first serves, and made smart choices, occasionally using a looping moon ball to disrupt her opponent’s rhythm, making few mistakes and at one point taking a winning streak of won seven games.
This was a rare occasion where newbie Raducanu faced an opponent for the second time, albeit in completely different circumstances. When she beat Sanders at a Challenger event in Nottingham on the grass last summer, she was a complete stranger, whose life was just days away from being changed forever. Here in Stuttgart, fans held up signs with her face on it that read “I love Emma”.
But Raducanu, who has won just three of her nine games so far this season, didn’t seem to mind the pressure of her status. Unable to build any real momentum during the hard court swing, evidence on Wednesday suggests that clay courts could provide a surprising outlet where Raducanu can play more freely and without too much expectation.
Coincidentally: Emma Raducanu scores convincing victory over Storm Sanders