Injury-ravaged British star Emma Raducanu's return at the Australian Open has thrilled tennis fans, with the 21-year-old looking in impressive touch during her first round win over Shelby Rogers. The former US Open champion hasn't played a grand slam match in almost a year after a series of injuries wrecked her 2023 campaign.
With childhood coach Nick Cavaday by her side at Melbourne Park - the latest in a long line of coaches since her US Open triumph in 2021 - Raducanu stormed into the second round with a 6-3 6-2 win against Rogers in just one hour and 16 minutes. The British star had played just eight matches since her last appearance at Melbourne Park in 2023, having undergone surgery on both her wrists and an ankle last year.
'DISRESPECTFUL': Storm erupts over John McEnroe commentary at Aus Open
“Being my first slam match back, it is definitely a little bit extra sweet,” Raducanu said after her thumping straight-sets win over Rogers. “I knew going in Shelby’s a player with experience. She’s had some great wins in her career... I’m happy with the way I came through that today.”
There were concerns around Raducanu's fitness in the lead-up to the Australian Open after the 21-year-old pulled out of two exhibition matches in Melbourne. Her team insisted they were merely precautionary measures aimed at easing Raducanu back into competition after such a lengthy stint on the sidelines.
In truth, Raducanu showed few signs of any injury concerns or rustiness in what was just her second match in nine months. The Brit played with confidence and aggression and refused to take her foot off the throttle against Rogers, in a clinical display.
Raducanu started the match like she meant business, breaking Rogers’ serve early and moving into a 4-1 lead before seeing out the first set with a hold to love. The 21-year-old maintained her high standard after breaking Rogers again in the first game of the second set, before consolidating her advantage with another break at 3-1 to cruise towards a comfortable victory.
— Eurosport (@eurosport) January 16, 2024
Tennis world delighted by Emma Raducanu's grand slam return
The World No.296 was all smiles after the match as she booked a date with China’s Wang Yafan in the second round. Raducanu said after the match it felt "amazing" to play without pain in her wrists, with fans thrilled to see the 21-year-old back on the biggest stage.
“It’s amazing to be pain-free with the wrists. I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever get to this stage,” Raducanu told reporters after the match. “I had pain for so long... I think the time away made me very hungry. I’m just happy to be healthy again and pain-free.”
This kid deserves a ton of 'breaks' in 2024,proper player and a huge talent
— Richard Gordon#KBF😀🌸💮🌺🌼 (@GordonRwhgordon) January 16, 2024
Nothing better to see on a tennis court than a winning smile from Emma Raducanu and looking so happy.🥰✌️ pic.twitter.com/ADzp80ksjp
— Gary H (@CCT157175) January 16, 2024
Emma Raducanu comes back to Grand Slam tennis one year later with an easy 6-3, 6-2 win over Shelby Rogers to reach the 2nd round at the #AusOpen for the 3rd consecutive year.
Very good performance. pic.twitter.com/yfJkwpWXYp
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) January 16, 2024
— Todd Scoullar (@ToddScoullar) January 16, 2024
I'm so happy for Emma Raducanu. Hope she wins Aus Open!
— daz (@darengineer) January 16, 2024
She looks So happy after her first-round win.😀🤪
Nearly eight months out of action with wrist and ankle surgeries.
Today, Emma Raducanu is back on the big stage with an excellent straight-set win.#AustralianOpen #AO24 pic.twitter.com/wHen5kNWdO
— Nasr Husn (@Nasironly) January 16, 2024
Raducanu d. Rogers 6-3 6-2
After having 3 surgeries & missing last season, Emma should be so proud for even being here tonight
But to play this well in her first match back in a Grand Slam...
You know she’s working incredibly hard
✅1st Slam win in a year
She’s back 🇬🇧❤️ pic.twitter.com/KsPuDeD98i
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) January 16, 2024
Ajla Tomljanovic in stunning comeback win
In other women's action on day three, Ajla Tomljanovic became the latest Aussie through to the second round, battling back from the brink of elimination to seal an incredible comeback win over Petra Martic. One year after her tearful withdrawal from the 2023 Australian Open due to injury, the 30-year-old came back from a 4-1 deficit in the decisive third set to prevail 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-4.
Tomljanovic's prize for victory in the two-hour, 53-minute slogfest is a tantalising second-round clash with 11th seed Jelena Ostapenko. "I really was out at one point," Tomljanovic said at a sparsely packed John Cain Arena after midnight.
"I mean, I felt like she was kind of toying with me and I couldn't read her serve. But 4-1 down, double break, you guys (the crowd) never gave up even more than me. I was like 'if you're here, I should give it my best' ... I'm really grateful that you all stayed this late."
Other notable results included World No. 1 Iga Świątek defeating 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin 7-6(7-2) 6-2, while third seed Elena Rybakina progressed in straight sets against Czech Karolína Plíšková 7-6(8-6) 6-4. America's top-ranked woman Jessica Pegula kicked off her campaign with a 6-2 6-4 win against Canada’s Rebecca Marino, having made the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park for the last three years.
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