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Fans were left shattered on Thursday night when Emma Raducanu crashed out of the Australian Open in sad scenes after suffering from debilitating blisters.
The US Open champion became the latest seeded women's star to be bundled out in Melbourne, going down 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to Danka Kovinic.
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The 19-year-old revealed after the match that the blisters were so bad that some of her team advised her not to play.
Making her debut at Melbourne Park, Raducanu looked on track when she raced to a 3-0 lead in the opening set.
But the 17th seed then lost five games in a row and needed a medical timeout for treatment on her right hand, and said afterwards that the blisters were so bad she had only been able to practise backhands before the match.
Despite battling back to win the second set she couldn't stop 98th-ranked Kovinic prevailing on Margaret Court Arena.
"I was struggling with my hand before the match. There were some people in my team that maybe didn't want me to play, but I wanted to go out there and fight through it, see how far I could get," said the Briton.
"I thought it was a pretty good learning experience for me. I discovered tools about myself and my game that I didn't know I had before.
"I can take some positives even from this match."
Fans were left devastated for Raducanu as she cut a dejected figure while leaving the court.
Disappointment for Raducanu, blisters are awful to play with. When you can't grip the racket hard enough, you're in big trouble. But fighting through that adversity throughout was great to see #AusOpen #AO2022 https://t.co/NrC7hsbXgv
— Uche Amako (@UcheAmako) January 20, 2022
Sad to see Raducanu and Murray out of the #AusOpen in the 2nd round. Both fought well, as always. Too many unforced errors from Murray, unfortunate hand blisters hampered Raducanu.
Only Dan Evans for 🇬🇧 in the singles now.
— Joanne Burton (@JoanneBurtonMe) January 20, 2022
Really sad the way Emma Raducanu had to leave the Aus Open. Really wanted to watch her in this tournament.
— Aditya (@shadowbatting) January 20, 2022
emma raducanu losing after fighting so hard is so sad :(
— becca (@imbrekkingdown) January 20, 2022
Sad that Emma Raducanu lost. But she gave a good fight!
— ☕Theodore P. Jurado☕ (@theo78) January 20, 2022
Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray lost, im so sad today
— J (@Mojojojhom) January 20, 2022
gutted for Raducanu, injury clearly held her back so much
— Tom Sexton (@TommyJSexton) January 20, 2022
Raducanu joins big names in exiting Australian Open
Raducanu said she had suffered from blisters before on her hand "but never this bad".
"I actually wasn't hitting forehands in practice the last few days. I was only saving it for my match. I wasn't hitting serves, either," she said.
"So the only thing I was really practising was my backhand."
The result put Kovinic into the third round of a major for the first time.
She will now play two-time grand slam winner Simona Halep, who crushed Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-2, 6-0 for a place in the fourth round.
"It's my first time to be in the third round after so many years and it is, honestly, an amazing feeling because I really wanted this for so long," said Kovinic.
"And I'm so glad that I can be the first Montenegrin ever to make it to this round.
"I'm making these results and making history in tennis for Montenegro. It's a huge thing for me."
Raducanu joined fellow top seeds Garbine Muguriza, Anett Kontaveit and Elena Rybakina in crashing out of the Australian Open on Thursday.
World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka managed to escape the carnage despite coughing up 19 double-faults against Xinyu Wang.
Sabalenka regrouped after committing 12 doubles in her first two service games alone to advance 1-6 6-4 6-2.
Polish seventh seed Iga Swiatek also progressed with a far more routine 6-2 6-2 victory over Swede Rebecca Peterson.
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