Auckland | Raducanu makes winning return after Svitolina ousts Wozniacki

Marquee matches headlined play in the 1st-round of the ASB Classic on Tuesday when Emma Raducanu made a successful return to the WTA Tour and Elina Svitolina defeated Caroline Wozniacki in a battle of two new mothers.

It’s difficult after having such a long hiatus. I’m grateful to be healthy & able to move my body.. Not bedridden or in a wheel chair. It’s amazing to be out here and playing. I’m just really happy to be back on the tour. Can’t wait to start this season and carry on, hopefully injury free and healthy. Emma Raducanu

In a match between two of last year’s most celebrated come-back players, 2nd-seeded Svitolina from Ukraine saw off Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, 6-4 6-3, and will face Raducanu in round 2.

Competing for the first time since Stuttgart last May after undergoing surgery on both wrists and her ankle, Raducanu has slipped to No 301 in the rankings, but the 21-year old Briton, who received a wild-card into Auckland, delivered a gritty performance to hold off a late charge by Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriel Ruse, ultimately converting her 4th match point on her 3rd attempt to serve out the win.

“It’s difficult after having such a long hiatus,” Raducanu said after the match. “I’m grateful to be healthy & able to move my body.. Not bedridden or in a wheel chair.

“It’s amazing to be out here and playing. I’m just really happy to be back on the tour. Can’t wait to start this season and carry on, hopefully injury free and healthy.”

Emma Raducanu dazzled at times but showed some signs of rust in her encounter with Elena-Gabriela Ruse

© Dave Rowland/Getty Images

Raducanu dazzled at times, but also showed signs of some rust as she saw Ruse eat away at her 5-2 final set lead, and failed to serve out the contest.

With the score standing at 5-5, she found a way through and put her friend away, 6-3 4-6 7-5, after 2 hours and 28 minutes of intense play.

The two became friends after some practising together at the Cluj-Napoca tournament in 2021, and Raducanu invited the Romanian to play an exhibition match with her at London’s Royal Albert Hall, winning in straight sets.

Early in this match, Raducanu impressed, dominating the points on her serve and earning the first break of serve in the match in the 8th game, before taking the opener after 36 minutes.

She looked to be carrying her momentum into the second as she racked up 3 break points in an 11-minute game, but Ruse saved them all, and the tide shifted when Raducanu questioned a decision from the umpire to give the Romanian a point after an overrule.

Raducanu now faced break points for the first time in the match, and handed Ruse the lead with a double-fault, and although she quickly got herself back on serve, the Brit relinquished a further break with another error off her delivery to put the World No 134 4-2 head.

With childhood mentor and coach Jane O’Donoghue in her box, Raducanu took a 0-40 lead as Ruse served for the second set, and, this time, it was the 26-year-old who fired down a double-fault to gift a break.

Earning a third break of the Raducanu serve, Ruse took the set to force a decider.

Raducanu remained composed, showing no further signs of the early nerves, and started the third, using superb slice to build towards a break to love to take a 3-2 lead.

Ruse blew a 40-15 lead to get broken again, but Raducanu failed to close out the match at the first time of asking at 5-2, and the match looked to be getting away from the 21-year-old when she failed to convert 2 more match points on the Romania’s serve and got broken again, losing 3 games in a row.

Raducanu, though, held her nerve and broke Ruse again, gaining a third chance to serve it out, and, this time, the Brit did not falter and secured her first match win since April.

Grateful to be back on the match court, Raducanu could yet play in the main draw at the Australian Open with only one withdrawal now needed after the news that Petra Kvitova is pregnant and has withdrawn.

2nd-seeded Elina Svitolina defeated Caroline Wozniacki in the opening round and will meet Emma Raducanu in Auckland

© Dave Rowland/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Raducanu now faces a tougher test in the 2nd-round when she meets Svitolina, the World No 25, who has been ranked as high as No 3.

Svitolina is playing in her first tournament since the US Open after enjoying a triumphant return from pregnancy last year, coming back unranked before winning the Strasbourg title, reaching the French Open quarter-final and beating Iga Swiatek en route to the Wimbledon semi-final.

The Ukrainian took an hour and 44 minutes to topple former World No 1 Wozniacki, extending her dominance in their career head-to-head to 5-1.

Two of the most prolific champions on the Hologic WTA Tour over the last 15 years, both Svitolina and Wozniacki made returns from maternity leave in 2023, with Svitolina winning last year’s WTA Comeback Player of the Year award.

Wozniacki has had much previous success at the ASB Classic, reaching the final in both 2015 and 2018, but Svitolina, making her tournament debut, curtailed the Dane’s Auckland form and denied Wozniacki her 20th career match-win in the city.

Wozniacki was one point away from a 5-3 lead in the opening set, but Svitolina levelled matters at 4-4 by slamming a rally backhand winner to break.

Svitolina was then in danger in her next service game, but she erased 3 break points to hold serve with a winning drop-shot.

Serving to stay in the set at 4-5 down, Wozniacki held 5 game points but was unable to convert any of them, and Svitolina lined up her first set point with another rally backhand winner.

She only needed just the one chance, as Wozniacki misfired on a wide backhand to end the set.

Caroline Wozniacki was outplayed by Elina Svitolina on this occasion in Auckland

© Dave Rowland/Getty Images

In the second, Svitolina’s 4-1 lead was whittled down to 4-3, but she converted her 4th break point of a gruelling game to break Wozniacki again for 5-3.

Saving one last break point before serving out the match in the next game to advance, Svitolina had fended off 6 of the 9 break points she faced overall.

In other 1st-round results at the WTA 250 in Auckland, top seed Coco Gauff got her title defence off the mark with a 6-4 6-2 win over American compatriot Claire Liu, and next will face Czech qualifier Brenda Fruhvirtova, who upset Russia’s Anna Blinkova, 7-5 6-4.

7th-seeded Petra Martic from Croatia advanced by eventually seeing off Spain’s Rebeka Masarova, 3-6 6-3 6-3, and will play Yuan Yue from China, who outlasted America’s Kayla Day, 7-6(1) 6-7(5) 6-1, in round 2.

A general view of the main show court at the ASB Tennis Centre in Auckland, New Zealand.

© Dave Rowland/Getty Images



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