Seoul | Raducanu makes Last 16 at Korea Open

British No 1 Emma Raducanu returned to action at the WTA Hana Bank Korea Open on Wednesday, where she scored an impressive win over Japan’s Moyuka Uchijima in her opening match, in her first appearance at the WTA 250 tournament in Seoul.

I think it was, overall, a pretty solid match until the end of the second set. I’m really happy with the way I regrouped. I knew that if I got a good first serve it would help me a lot. I was trying to hit an ace and I did... My serves helped me out a lot. Emma Raducanu

“I feel so at home here,” Raducanu told reporters. “Everything is so much better. It’s so clean, the food is unbelievable.

“The support from the fans I get is great, some wait three hours to watch me during practice sessions. I just want to spend as much time as I can in Korea.”

The World No 77, who is coming off a 2nd-round exit from the Slovenia Open last week, opened her campaign with a 6-2 6-4 win against Uchijima, who is ranked 49 places below her in the WTA Rankings.

For 51 minutes on the centre court at the Olympic Park Tennis Center, 19-year old Raducanu dominated and brought up 2 match points leading 6-2. 5-0, but then faltered, missing her chance to bagel the Japanese by coughing up 2 double-faults on match point, and inviting Uchijima to break back for the first time.

Ranked 126, Uchijima started off the match with a love service game, while Raducanu struggled to land any of her first 4 serves, but found some solace on her second delivery.

Errors from Uchijima gave Raducanu a chance to break, and an overzealous shot approaching the net from the Japanese handed her the early advantage.

Now dominating, the former US Open champion used her powerful forehand to push the Japanese beyond the baseline, drawing more errors from Uchijima.

After 15 minutes of play, Raducanu had secured a double break and found her groove on her second-serve points before consolidating with a fine ace out wide to go up 5-1.

The Japanese avoided a hat-trick of breaks, but it only delayed Raducanu’s march to pocketing the opening set without any need to change gears.

The No 6 seed showed no sign of letting up in the second, either, snagging a double break as Uchijima struggled to hang on, and it looked as if Raducanu would cruise to an easy win when the wobble occurred.

Having looked entirely comfortable, the 19-year old was broken when serving for the match, and Uchijima’s response continued with 3 more games to take the score to 5-4.

Uchijima then had break point at 30-40 in the 10th game, only for Raducanu to produce a couple of timely aces before wrapping up the victory after an hour and 18 minutes.

To her credit, Raducanu weathered Uchijima’s late surge that could so easily have allowed former doubts to return, when the Japanese fought back with 4 successive games to crank up the pressure.

She dug out her 2 aces when facing a break point after serving up another inopportune double-fault and, 20 minutes after her first match point, Raducanu took advantage of her 3rd with a strong serve down the middle.

“I think it was, overall, a pretty solid match until the end of the second set,” she said. “I’m really happy with the way I regrouped.”

Raducanu added that she had tried to stop herself from ‘overthinking’ and just focused on her serve.

“I knew that if I got a good first serve it would help me a lot. I was trying to hit an ace and I did… My serves helped me out a lot,” she added.

Coach Dmitry Tursurnov, who was watching in the stands, should be pleased about how Raducanu steadied the ship after her dip in focus.

Raducanu’s next opponent is Yanina Wickmayer after the 32-year old Belgian surprisingly beat 17-year old Linda Fruhvirtova, 6-1 6-4, who won her first WTA title at the Chennai Open on Sunday.

17-year Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva continues to trail-blaze for Andorra, beating Rebecca Marino, the 8th seed, on Wednesday

© Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Third seed Magda Linette from Poland, who finished runner-up to Fruhvirtova in Chennai over the weekend, defeated Italy’s Arianna Hartono, 6-2 7-5, and meets Kristina Mladenovic next.

Mladenovic battled past Park So-hyun from South Korai in a 1st-round match that lasted almost 3 hours.

Park put up a good fight, winning the second set, but was unable to come back after Mladenovic broke her serve in the decider.

Meanwhile, 17-year old Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva became the first Andorran to reach a WTA quarter-final when she beat Rebecca Marino, the 8th seed from Canada, 6-4 6-2 in the 2nd-round.

For the former junior No 1, it was her 3rd career Top 100 win as she continues to trail-blaze for her country, the Pyrenean principality of Andorra, which is sandwiched between France and Spain with a population of 77,265.

The teenage left-hander has a dynamic, athletic game built around a heavy forehand, which helped her become the 2020 Australian Open girls’ champion at the age of 14, and she has already risen to World No 180 in the rankings.

“I’m very, very proud to represent my country,” Jimenez Kasintseva told the WTA via Zoom. “I lived with my father in Barcelona, while my mother was in Andorra with my brother, and that was very hard for me. But honestly, it made me stronger.”

With no tennis courts in Andorra, Jimenez Kasintseva moved to Barcelona to train and follow in the footsteps of her father, Joan Jimenez Guerra, who reached No 505 on the ATP Tour in 1999, and coached his daughter through her junior years.

Jimenez Kasintseva has found inspiration from others from non-traditional tennis countries, such as Tunisia’s World No 2 Ons Jabeur and US Open girls’ champion Alexandra Eala of the Philippines.

“It’s amazing what Ons and Alex are doing, and I feel like I’m part of that,” she said. “I remember seeing Ons on TV playing smaller events, and now she’s done two Grand Slam finals in a row.

“And I know Alex, and she really deserves all her success.”

Top seed Jelena Ostapenko edged past local hope Jeong Bo-young in 3 sets to make the Last 16 in Seoul

© Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

Top seed Jelena Ostapenko advanced to the round of 16 on Tuesday, surviving a scare against South Korean teenager Jeong Bo-young, before edging past, 6-4 3-6 7-6(2), after a gruelling 2 hours and 13 minutes.

“I try to take it one night at a time and today was a really tricky one,” said Ostapenko in a post-match interview on Tuesday. “But I want to take one match at a time and hopefully I can do well here.”

Jeong, a 19-year-old wild-card ranked 688 in the world, gave Ostapenko all she could handle, and came within a game of pulling off the biggest upset of the tournament on Day 2.

Ostapenko fended off an early push by Jeong to win the first set 6-4, but with score level at 3-3 in the second, Jeong broke to take a 4-3 lead, taking full advantage of the Latvian’s unforced errors.

The Korean survived two break points in the next game to open up a 5-3 lead, and claimed another game to take the set, levelling the match at a set all.

The top seed regrouped, and broke Jeong to open the decider, thanks to some powerful backhand groundstrokes, and then held her serve to go up 2-0, but the teenager fought back to win the next 3 games for a 3-2 lead.

Ostapenko drew even again, before breaking Jeong to reclaim her lead at 4-3 and move to within a game of winning the match, but Jeong still hung in to stay alive,

Serving for the match, Ostapenko coughed up 2 double-faults and got broken without winning a point.

Pressure built on the Latvian as Jeong claimed the next game, but Ostapenko held to send the match into the tiebreak, in which the World No 15 kicked into high gear to win 3 early points and finishing off Jeong by forcing an errant return for the match point.

Ostapenko, who won the 2017 Korea Open, weeks after capturing her first Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, is a fan favourite in Seoul, and moves on to meet Anastasia Gasanova, a 7-5 7-5 winner over Australia’s Astra Sharma.

Elsewhere, 2nd-seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova moved into the quarter-finals with a 6-1 6-3 win over Han Na-lae, the last Korean left in the draw, while Zhu Lin, the 4th seed from China, took out India’s Ankita Raina by the same score and will meet German Tatjana Maria, the 7th seed, next, who dispatched Kimberley Birrell from Australia, 6-0 6-3.



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