Emma Raducanu won her second match in a row on clay to reach the quarter-finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, where she play World No 1 Iga Swiatek for the first time in her fledgling career.
Of course she [Swiatek] is in great form, so it's going to take a very high level from me to make it competitive. I'm looking forward to going out there. She's No 1 in the world, she's won all the tournaments recently, so I feel like I've got no pressure. Emma Raducanu
The 19-year old Brit dominated lucky loser Tamara Korpatsch in the first set on Thursday without dropping a game but, as veterans of the game are well aware, beware of the bagel, as the German immediately struck back and won the second before Raducanu prevailed, 6-0 2-6 6-1.
The US Open champion started and finished strongly to win after an hour 39 minutes, just the second time Raducanu has won two matches at the same tournament on the WTA Tour after the Transylvania Open last October.
“Overall I feel like Tamara came out in the second set and played some unbelievable tennis,” Raducanu said in her on-court interview. “I didn’t even think that I was making too many mistakes, but I dropped the ball slightly short, and she was all over it.
“For me it was just about re-grouping for the third set, and trying to stay aggressive.”
Currently ranked 12 in the world, Raducanu, who won at Flushing Meadows as a 150th-ranked qualifier last September, could break into the top 10 if she wins the Stuttgart title in what is her first professional tournament on clay, but she faces a daunting task next, when she takes on Swiatek, the top seed, who is on a 20-match winning run, and has lost just 3 games in her last 6 sets.
“Of course she [Swiatek] is in great form, so it’s going to take a very high level from me to make it competitive,” Raducanu said, after her win. “I’m looking forward to going out there.
“She’s No 1 in the world, she’s won all the tournaments recently, so I feel like I’ve got no pressure.”
Their only previous meeting came in the quarter-finals of the girls’ singles at Wimbledon in 2018, when Swiatek won 6-0 6-1 en route to her lone Junior Grand Slam singles title.
Raducanu dropped just 7 points in the one-sided first set on Thursday, but Korpatsch found her range in the second, bolstered by her home crowd,
“Second set is where I came out swinging, I had the match in control,” said Raducanu. “And then [Korpatsch] started playing some really good tennis, and, maybe, I dropped my level a little bit, but she capitalised really well.
“The way I re-grouped for the third set, I think, was what I was most pleased about.”
Korpatsch, ranked 118, got into the main draw after Italy’s Jasmine Paolini’s withdrawal and then upset her compatriot Camila Giorgi in the first round, but while she was totally out-gunned in the bagel opener, she was not prepared to go quietly and, using powerful hitting, particularly from the forehand side, she amped up her winners in the second, and forced the decider.
Raducanu, who had won 90 percent of her first-service points in the first set and never faced a break point, swiftly took control in the 3rd set, following a sturdy return with a put-away at net to break for 2-0.
Using high heavy topspin to wear down the German and, gaining in confidence, Raducanu produced a stunning return winner to give herself a second break for 5-1, before closing out the win with a crosscourt winner after saving one final break point in the last game.
Into her first quarter-final of the season, Raducanu’s latest win is projected to nudge her higher up the rankings to at least a new career-high position of World No 11 on Monday, with a Top 10 debut possible should she go on to win the title.
Earlier in the day, 2nd-seeded Paula Badosa from Spain battled past Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, 6-2 4-6 7-6(4), and will face Ons Jabeur in the quarters after the 7th-seeded Tunsian defeated Daria Kasatkina, 6-3 6-3.
Badosa had to fend off a spirited fightback from Rybakina, despite racing to a 6-2 first set win, and it took her two-and-a-half hours to get past the determined Kazakh, clinching the match in a tight 3rd set tiebreak.
“It’s very slippery and very fast,” Badosa said after the match. “I’m not even playing a clay-court game.
“I like to play a lot with my forehand with heavy balls. Here I don’t have the time to do that as much as I want. The movement as well, when you lose control of the point it’s tough to recover.”
After the one-sided first set, Badosa’s intensity dipped in the second, while Rybakina improved her first serve percentage from 41% to 72%, but even so, the Spaniard managed to peg the Kazakh’s 4-0 lead back to 4-4 before Rybakina gathered herself to get over the line.
The quality and length of the baseline duels rose in the 3rd set, and Badosa gained the upper hand in most of them as she went up 4-1, but it was Rybakina’s turn to chip away at the lead, and there was nothing separating the pair as they headed into the deciding tiebreak.
Despite Badosa serving 2 of her 8 double-faults in the breaker, Rybakina could not take advantage, committing 5 of her 38 unforced errors in response, including a backhand wide on the No 2 seed’s 3rd match point.
Badosa improved her head-to-head against Rybakina to 3-1 with the result, and will next face her good friend Jabeur in the quarters.
“I’ll have to be ready for her very flat game,” she said. “She’ll be very aggressive. She won’t give me the time to play, to think. I’ll have to do the same to her.
“I think, in these kinds of matches, the one who plays better that day wins because the level is very tight right now.”
Jabeur, the World No 10, scored her routine win over Kasatkina in an hour 24 minutes, and is hoping to deliver a strong performance against Badosa, admitting she has a tough task ahead of her.
“I know that Paula practices one way, and plays another way,” Jabeur said of Badosa. “She’s much tougher in matches.
“It’s going to be a very tough match. I think I’ll rally a lot and run a lot. She doesn’t give free points.
“So the key tomorrow is patience for me. I’m just trying to enjoy as much as I can. For me, I put more pressure on her.
“She’s the clay specialist. I saw the interview. So more pressure is on you, Paula!”
After Jabeur sustained a season-ending elbow injury last year, she was forced to revamp her backhand.
“I think I was forced to improve it because I literally couldn’t do any slices,” Jabeur told WTA Insider after her second-round win. “Defending-wise, I would always defend with the slice.
“During the pre-season, it was very tough for me to do slices, so I was reaching out and hitting the backhand or hitting lobs with the backhand. I kind of had a gun on me to hit a backhand.
“Maybe this was the medicine the coaches should have given me a long time ago to stop me from doing drop-shots. I guess I don’t need my drop-shot anymore.”
Meanwhile, 3rd-seeded Aryna Sabalenka got past Canada’s Bianca Andreescu, 6-1 3-6 6-2, and will face Anett Kontaveit, the 5th seed, after the Estonian outlasted Ekaterina Alexandrova, 2- 6-3 7-6(5).
Sabalenka, runner-up in Stuttgart last year to Ash Barty, booked her place in her second quarter-final of 2022 following Doha in February, the 23-year-old continuing to find her groove after a stuttering start to the year, and improving her overall win-loss record to 8-8.
This week has marked Andreescu’s return from a 6-month hiatus to address her mental health, while her tour-level clay experience has been limited, with Stuttgart just her 4th WTA main draw on the surface.
Sabalenka’s serve made the big difference on this day, and only when this faltered was the Canadian able to make significant inroads.
Andreescu mostly struggled to hold onto her own deliveries, while Sabalenka’s power enabled her to finish off her games quickly, although inaccuracy on the ground and off her serve did cost her the second set, but the 3rd seed still went out to a 4-1 lead in the 3rd after an early break.
At 4-2 up Sabalenka survived a wobbly service game that included 3 unforced errors but Andreescu failed to capitalise on the chance, and Sabalenka closed easily out the contest.
Her next opponent, Kontaveit, squeaked by Alexandrova in a 3rd-set breaker after failing to serve out the match at 5-4, and coming from a mini-break down in the nightcap clash.
Kontaveit has now won a staggering 22 consecutive indoor matches, including titles at Ostrava, Moscow, and Cluj-Napoca last year, and another title in St Petersburg this year.
Elsewhere, 4th-seeded Maria Sakkari from Greece retired with gastroenteritis against Laura Siegemund when the German was leading 6-4, 3-1.
The former Top 30 player, who came in as a wild-card after knee surgery last year took her out of the Top 200, next plays Liudmila Samsonova, who upset Czech Karolina Pliskova, the 6th seed, 6-4 6-4.
Last summer, Pliskova put an end to Samsonova’s 10-match winning streak on grass by emerging victorious from their 4th round match at Wimbledon but, on the Stuttgart clay, there was to be no repeat.
From 4-3 down in the first set, Samsonova won 5 straight games and never again relinquished her lead to reach the last 8, her first win against a Top 10 player.
By beating the former Stuttgart champion, Samsonova moves through to her 2nd tour-level quarter-final on clay, where takes on another former Stuttgart champion in Siegemund.