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Set to make her Australian Open debut, defending US Open champion Emma Raducanu is seeded No. 17 and drawn in the bottom half with a potential showdown against her idol, Simona. Halep in the third round; with a lack of recent games a concern, how far can the British teenager go in Melbourne?
Last Updated: 01/18/22 06:06
Andrew Castle believes Emma Raducanu needs to rebuild after her historic US Open win. The Briton has been drawn to face Sloane Stephens in the first round of the Australian Open
Emma Raducanu enters the Australian Open with the dream of achieving another Grand Slam miracle. Can the teenage sensation back up his US Open triumph with a victory in Melbourne?
Raducanu’s historic run at Flushing Meadows last September will never be forgotten – she won 10 straight matches to go from qualification to US Open champion and earning a life-changing $2.5 million.
But life since that sensational night in New York has changed dramatically for the Kent teenager, with the rigors of the daily routine on the WTA Tour taking over her life.
It hasn’t been easy for the 19-year-old, who this time last year was tweeting about her A Levels.
Raducanu is in a relaxed mood as she prepares to make her Australian Open debut
“When it’s a job, it’s not a pleasure to show up every day. For her, going to the field every day sometimes feels like work”
Andrew Castle talks about life on the Tour
Since the end of Britain’s 44-year wait for a Women’s Grand Slam winner, Raducanu has parted ways with coach Andrew Richardson, savored a first WTA Tour win, signed the former Angelique Kerber’s trainer, Torben Beltz, has tested positive for Covid-19 and was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2021.
All this in just four months!
Barry Cowan says while Raducanu is still learning his game, expectations ahead of the Australian Open are high
Raducanu suffered a heavy defeat at the Sydney International in her first match since recovering from coronavirus, losing 6-0 6-1 to Kazakhstan’s world No. 13 Elena Rybakina.
Talk to Sky Sports News, former British number 1 Andrew Castle said his “difficult preparation” for the Australian Open was still likely to happen.
He said: “What we saw at the US Open last year was so phenomenal, going from schoolgirl to Grand Slam champion without dropping a set. She didn’t beat any top 10 player there. , but she beat everyone in front of her in straight sets.
“I’m not going to say it was an aberration, but it was one of those things where it’s almost like her career has reversed now. She achieved the big thing that everyone is aiming for, but now she has to build again because life on the Tour day in and day out is very different.
“It’s a chore, you have to get used to it and the other players get used to you a bit. When it’s a job, it’s not a pleasure to show up every day. For her, going on the pitch every day, will sometimes feel like work.”
Raducanu is preparing to make his Australian Open debut in what will be only his third appearance at a Grand Slam tournament. She started 2021 ranked 345th, moved up to 179th in July by reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon on her Grand Slam debut and arrived at the US Open ranked 150th. Raducanu left New York at No. 23 having won all 20 sets she had in 10 wins en route to the title. Now through to No.18, can Raducanu write more Melbourne history?
The Remarkable Rise of Raducanu
Difficult opening test
A first Grand Slam match since her victory in the United States pits her against 2017 New York champion Sloane Stephens in Melbourne.
Stephens, who recently married footballer Jozy Altidore, has slipped to 68 in the rankings but at his best is a formidable opponent and reached the semi-finals in Melbourne nine years ago.
The American’s last Tour win came against Raducanu’s compatriot Heather Watson in Indian Wells and she hasn’t played at all since beating Russia’s Liudmila Samsonova in the Billie Jean King Cup final in November.
Stephens has lost in the first round of the Australian Open in her last two appearances, but she usually proves to be up to the big game, beating Petra Kvitova, Madison Keys, Coco Gauff and Karolina Pliskova at the Grand Slams last season .
“I watched Sloane win the US Open. I hit with her last year actually. Obviously you don’t win a Grand Slam without being very capable. I think it’s going to be a tough match for sure. I’m going to go there and enjoy the game because just playing in this Grand Slam I had to work so hard to be here.”
Emma Raducanu on Sloane Stephens
“She is progressing at the moment and I think the draw against Sloane Stephens is absolutely fascinating. Stephens, even though she is a Grand Slam champion, would almost be considered an underachiever for her talent,” said Castle, who has reached the men’s doubles semi-final in 1988. final in Melbourne alongside Roberto Saad.
“She’s wonderfully gifted and it’s almost good news that she’s playing a big name, albeit unseeded, in the first round for Emma. I wish her well this year, but please be patient as she’s quite brilliant.”
The UK No.1 opened up to Sky News presenter Jacquie Beltrao about his New York fairy tale and his 2022 goals
Idol Halep is waiting for you
Raducanu hopes to regain his form on the outdoor courts which brought him such success in New York. She will feel at home on the Plexicushion surface in Melbourne, which is medium paced with lower bounce and less spin compared to the US Open.
If successful against Stephens, the 19-year-old would face world No. 99 Danka Kovinic or a qualifier in the second round before a potential showdown against her idol Simona Halep in the third round.
Former world number 1 Halep has already sung the praises of Raducanu, saying the US Open champion will eventually become one of the best players in the world.
They were due to meet in the semi-finals of the Transylvania Open last year, but the Briton went out in the quarter-finals in her father’s country of birth.
It doesn’t get any easier…
If Raducanu fights his way past Halep, then two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza could be on the prowl.
The 2020 Australian Open runner-up has enjoyed a career renaissance since linking up with the legendary Conchita Martinez. The Spaniard won the 2021 WTA Year-End Finals, finishing the season 3rd in the standings.
Rybakina could be next in line for Britain’s No.1 in the quarter-finals, having already beaten her to a single-game loss in Sydney. Estonian heavy hitter Anett Kontaveit is another potential opponent in the last eight.
Looking even further, former French Open champion Iga Swiatek or Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka could face Raducanu in the semi-finals.
And if she were to win back-to-back Grand Slam titles, how about a clash against world number one Ashleigh Barty or defending champion Naomi Osaka on Saturday January 29? This is definitely a date to mark in your diaries.