Auckland | Raducanu gives Svitolina a fright as Gauff cruises

Britain’s Emma Raducanu gave 2nd-seeded Elina Svitolina quite a fright at the ASB Classic presented by Evrie in Auckland on Thursday, but the Ukrainian escaped in 3 sets, while World No 3 Coco Gauff cruised into the quarter-finals with a routine win over Brenda Fruhvirtova.

It was a great match from both of us. Emma played a great match and it was really difficult, physically. I hope I will recover for tomorrow, be ready and you guys can give me some support. Two great matches and now against Emma, they played really well. I am happy with the way I handled pressure moments and just a really great way to start the year. Elina Svitolina

Svitolina needed all of trademark grit to get past Raducanu, who has impressed on her come-back after an absence of 8 months for surgeries to her wrists and ankle.

The World No 25 battle her way into the quarter-finals, 6-7(5) 7-6(3) 6-1, after a 2 hour 49 minute enthralling encounter.

Raducanu looked to be in top form for most of the match, but struggled as it went into a deciding 3rd set in which Svitolina accelerated away, and she narrowly avoided a bagel on just her second match back from injury.

“When you play someone like Elina, it’s very difficult to train at that level and train like that for three and a half hours,” Raducanu told the press. “Even if you practise like that for three hours, it’s not the same as having to make your first serve every time, if not, she’s on the second.

“So I’m pretty pleased she compared it to that [match against Iga Swiatek]. I know it’s the start of a long season for me, and I’m looking forward to reflecting on the year and having this as a starting point.

“My intensity just dropped and I need to learn to maintain that better for longer if I’m going to compete with these players for three sets.”

It was a very tight first-time encounter between the two over two sets, which saw Raducanu hold off a late Svitolina charge in the opener before she edged the tiebreak, despite losing a 5-1 double-break lead.

She raced out of the blocks, blitzing a series of winners from all corners of the court, and converting her 6th break point to capture the Svitolina serve in the 3rd game, and then extended her lead with confident drop-shots and smart injections of pace as she leapt out to 5-1.

A brilliant reflexed lob from Svitolina marked the start of the Ukrainian’s response, and the 29-year-old hit back with a run of 5 straight games, only for Raducanu to gather herself in time to force a tiebreak.

The former World No 10 Brit maintained her composure, converting her 2nd set point after ending a terrific exchange with another drop-shot.

Emma Raducanu was immaculate on serve and led in both sets but faded in the 3rd against Elina Svitolina at the ASB Classic in Auckland on Thursday

© Hannah Peters/Getty Images

The second found Svitolina redoubling her aggressive efforts, and she was rewarded with a 3-1 lead, but a double-fault proffered a break point in the next game that brought Raducanu back into the set, and the Briton’s proficiency at the net put her on the front foot again.

Raducanu held a point to break for 5-3, but it was her last chance of the match, and the win slipped through her fingers as Svitolina, untroubled on serve for the remainder of the set, racked up the aces and service winners to keep the Brit at bay.

The 2021 US Open champion had broken back, and her serve was immaculate as the match entered the second tiebreak in which she led 3-1, and she had seemed to be on the verge of victory, but the 2nd seed refused lie down, and she fought back to win 6 straight points, aided by a trio of loose forehand errors, to eventually take matters into a deciding set.

The Ukrainian then motored through the decider as Raducanu, the World No 301, simply faded.

The final set proved too much for the 21-year-old and she was broken early, allowing Svitolina to take control of proceedings by winning the next 3 games before heading into a 5-0 lead.

Raducanu dodged the bagel with a hold of serve in the 6th game, but Svitolina soon after wrapped it all up, comfortably enough.

“It was a great match from both of us,” Svitolina said on court afterwards. “Emma played a great match and it was really difficult, physically. I hope I will recover for tomorrow, be ready and you guys can give me some support.

“Two great matches and now against Emma, they played really well. I am happy with the way I handled pressure moments and just a really great way to start the year.”

Both impressed with all-court aggressive play throughout, with Svitolina tallying 52 winners, including 11 aces, to her 26 unforced errors, while Raducanu found 39 winners to her 24 miscues.

Svitolina was last year’s WTA Comeback Player of the Year, returning from maternity leave in April before winning her 17th career title in Strasbourg, reaching the Roland Garros quarter-finals, and making her third major semi-final at Wimbledon.

She next will play No 5 seed Marie Bouzkova for the first time, the Czech player having easily dismissed Amanda Anisimova from the USA, 6-0 6-1, on Wednesday.

Top seed Coco Gauff stuttered against Brenda Fruhvirtova in the early stages and then delivered the 16-year old a second set bagel to make it into the quarters at the WTA 250 tournament in Auckland

© Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Earlier in the day, Gauff stepped up her preparations for the Australian Open with an emphatic 6-3 6-0 win over rising Czech Brenda Fruhvirtova to march into the quarter-finals.

After a few issues at the start in which the reigning US Open champion dropped her first service game and had to save 2 break points on her third, the 19-year-old proved unstoppable in the battle of the teens.

16-year-old Fruhvirtova, ranked 117, came out hitting harder than any player at the tournament so far, generating enormous power off both wings, which troubled Gauff at first, and she broke the American’s serve to love in the 3rd game of the first set.

Gauff immediately broke back in a game of 14 points to level the set at 2-2, and, after saving a break point in her next service game, the American broke again to lead 4-2.

She served for the first set at 5-3, and had to save another break point before clinching the set in 40 minutes, finishing with a flourish of an ace.

The Czech qualifier, who beat World No 48 Anna Blinkova from Russia in the 1st-round, won only 10 points in the second set, though, which was over in 70 minutes.

Gauff immediately broke her in the 1st game of the second as she began to find more depth in her returns, and also broke in the 3rd and 5th games, while she held her own serve with confidence, highlighting her second service game with a 190 kph (118 mph) ace.

Although she had to save 2 break points when she served for the match at 5-0, she managed to allay any threat with her 6th ace.

“I thought I played well,” said Gauff, who sent down 5 aces. “She started really well and I was able to raise my level. I thought I served and I did better on my returns.

“I thought she played a good match. I’ve known her since she was 10 years old. We used be in France, training at the same academy. Her and her sister [Brenda], we grew up playing or training beside each other and it’s great to see her on tour. I’m sure she’s going to go even further.”

Gauff will next play 8th seed Varvara Gracheva, the World No 42 who now represents France, and was a 6-3 6-4 winner over Swiss qualifier Lulu Sun.

Meanwhile, 7th-seeded Petra Martic from Croatia sent down 6 aces and converted 4 of 9 break points on her way to a 6-2 6-2 win over China’s Yuan Yue of China, to set up a Last 8 meeting with American Emma Navarro, the 4th seed, for a spot in the semi-finals.



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