Melbourne | Boulter and Raducanu advance to AO 2nd-round

Both Kate Boulter and Emma Raducanu won their 1st-round matches at the Australian Open in straight sets, keeping alive a prospect of the two meeting in round 3.

I think the time away made me very hungry. I'm just happy to be healthy again and pain-free. Emma Raducanu

Boulter, the current British No 1, beat China’s Yuan Yue, 7-5 7-6(1), to post her main draw win at Melbourne Park after a tough battle, while Raducanu defeated American Shelby Rogers, 6-3 6-2, making an easier statement return to Grand Slam play after injury kept her out for 9 months last year.

For the two to meet, Boulter must get past China’s Zheng Qinwen, as Raducanu takes on another Chinese, Wang Yafan next.

Both Chinese went the distance on Tuesday, with 21-year old Zheng, the 12th seed, finding her way past America’s Ashlyn Krueger, 3-6 6-2 6-3, after 2 hours 18 minutes, while her compatriot, 29-year old Wang Yafan, ranked 94, upset Sorana Cirstea, the 22nd-seeded Romanian, 0-6 7-5 6-3, in 3 minutes short of 2 hours.

Boulter impressed in her first AO main draw win in five appearances, having lost in qualifying in Melbourne the previous 2 years but making rapid strides up the rankings in 2023, and dispatching the in-form Yuan.

Her only mis-step came when 2 match points went begging on her own serve at 5-4 in the second set, but she regrouped well, and dominated the tiebreak for just her second main-draw win at Melbourne Park.

Boulter is ranked 57, and full of confidence after a great start to 2024 following the United Cup in Perth, where she claimed the biggest victory of her career over World No 5 Jessica Pegula.

It was a tight contest throughout, though, against Yuan, but Boulter showed that she is made for the big occasion, coming out on top in nearly all the key moments.

A break for 6-5 in the opening set gave her the chance to serve it out, which she took in the hot, breezy conditions.

Yuan, ranked 7 places lower than Boulter at 61 in the world, reached the semi-finals of the WTA Tour event in Hobart last week, and there was nothing to separate the pair in the second until the Brit, who had been under more pressure on her serve, broke to lead 5-4.

Her composure wavered at an inopportune moment, the 27-year-old coughing up a double-fault on her first match point, and then missing a backhand on the second as Yuan pulled back level.

Boulter shrugged the missed opportunities off, and took the first 5 points of the breaker before converting her 3rd match point to seal her first win in Melbourne since beating Ekaterina Makarova in 2019.

She joins her boyfriend Alex de Minaur in advancing after his Canadian opponent Milos Raonic withdrew mid-match due to injury on Monday.

Former US Open champion Emma Raducanu made a successful return to Melbourne Park with a comfortable win over Shelby Rogers late on Tuesday afternoon

© Julian Finney/Getty Images

A little later, on a packed 1573 Arena, 21-year-old Raducanu showed flashes of the form that took her to the US Open title in 2021, confidently dispatching Rogers in 76 minutes, and becoming the 4th Brit to reach the 2nd-round on Tuesday in Melbourne after wins for Boulter, Jack Draper and Cameron Norrie, but Dan Evans’ defeat denied them a perfect day.

“I’m very happy to have come through that. I think being my first slam match back, it is definitely a little bit extra sweet,” Raducanu said. “I knew going in Shelby’s a player with experience. She’s had some great wins in her career. I knew I was going to have to try my best to neutralise her serve and focus on mine.

“I’m happy with the way I came through that today.”

Raducanu made light work of Rogers and is enjoying a happy return to Grand Slam action, her first major since this event last year, after having endured an injury-plagued year in 2023 and undergoing wrist and ankle surgeries.

“I think the time away made me very hungry,” she said. “I’m just happy to be healthy again and pain-free.”

The American 31-year old, who has been ranked as high as No 30 in the world, has faced injury too, and had not played since Wimbledon.

Now ranked 161, Rogers showed signs of rust as she made the sort of errors expected of one coming back after such a long time out.

Raducanu benefitted from the American’s 35 unforced errors, but served well towards the end, and never looked in any danger in what proved to be a relatively gentle reintroduction.

In all of her 3 matches since returning from her break, Raducanu has impressed, making a confident start by breaking Rogers’ serve and moving into a 4-1 lead before seeing out the set with a hold to love.

Maintaining her high standard in the second, Raducanu broke in the first game and consolidated her advantage with a further break at 3-1 when a backhand approach from the American landed in the net.

A forehand winner from Raducanu closed out the set, and the match, to love again, earning her a 2nd-round meeting with Wang Yafan on Thursday.

Raducanu did not face a break point in the match, while, overall, she won 91% of her first service points which was significantly higher than her second at 50%.

She is currently being coached by Nick Cavady, who she used to work with during her childhood years.

“It’s nice to be with Nick,” she said. “I’ve known him since I was a kid and I feel very comfortable there. In all aspects of my life, I feel, like, are calming down and settled.

“When you come back after eight months, have experienced three surgeries, you’re just really grateful to be able to move freely.”

A relaxed Emma Raducanu spent time after her win over Shelby Rogers signing autographs on 1573 Arena at Melbourne Park on Tuesday

© Julian Finney/Getty Images



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