As Emma Raducanu arrived at the 1573 Arena for her first grand slam match of the new tennis season, she still had questions to answer. Despite making clear progress since rolling her ankle and tearfully retiring from her first tournament of the year in Auckland, it remained to be seen how the injury would hold up under the physical and mental stress of competition.
It fared well enough. After moving timidly in the early exchanges, Raducanu improved throughout her time on court and finished her Australian Open first round match on top of the baseline, completely outmatching Tamara Korpatsch of Germany as she comfortably moved into the second round with a 6-3, 6-2 win.
“Everything I’ve done has been quite controlled the last week. So to test [the ankle] out in a real match and with the unpredictability and stuff, just getting used to it in the beginning… but, yeah, it felt good,” said Raducanu.
Despite breaking serve immediately and attacking her forehand well, in the opening exchanges Raducanu timidly navigated her taped left ankle. On two strokes that require significant use of her left ankle – her backhand and serve – she looked hesitant when pushing off the ground to generate power through her legs.
Korpatsch, a 25 year-old German who has spent most of her career on the ITF circuit, was too underpowered to take advantage of Raducanu’s scrappy start. As the Briton’s movement gradually improved, she commanded the baseline, smothered Korpatsch’s substandard serve and also showed great hands, exploiting her opponent’s deep court positioning with numerous well-executed drop shots.
By the second set, Raducanu had established herself on top of the baseline where she overwhelmed Korpatsch with her superior weaponry, emphatically closing off a solid win. Afterwards, Raducanu said the effort it took from her team just to make it to the first round meant that she entered the court feeling far more relaxed.
“If anything, it kind of alleviates any pressure. I’ve done so well to get myself onto the court, and my team has done so well,” she said. “Will [Herbert, Raducanu’s physio] has been working on it every single day. For him it’s just a great achievement for all of us. Then for me to be out there, it’s like I might as well just enjoy all the hard work we’ve done to get myself here.”
A marquee second-round match awaits Raducanu next as she faces Coco Gauff, the seventh seed, who comfortably defeated Katerina Siniakova 6-1, 6-4 to reach round two. With her straight sets win over Siniakova, the American has started the season 6-0 without dropping a set after winning her third title in Auckland.
“I think she’s a great athlete,” said Raducanu. “When she first came at Wimbledon, I think it took her a little bit to adjust as well, but then she definitely found her feet. She’s playing really good tennis and looking really solid right now. She’s a great athlete with some big weapons. It’s going to be a tough opponent. I’m looking forward to the occasion.”
Meanwhile, Harriet Dart was unable to take advantage of a strong start in her first round match as she was beaten 7-5, 6-1 by Jil Teichmann, the 32nd seed.
Dart had quickly established a 4-2 lead in the opening set but after failing to take three break points for a 5-2 lead, she was defeated after losing 10 of the final 12 games.