Raducanu faces big test against Stephens on Australian Open debut

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 5, 2022 Britain's Emma Raducanu during a practice in the lead-up to the 2022 Australian Open REUTERS/Loren Elliott

MELBOURNE, Jan 18 (Reuters) – Britain’s Emma Raducanu claimed a Grand Slam trophy even before she played a major champion but the 19-year-old could face a daunting task on her Australian Open debut when she meets former U.S. Open winner Sloane Stephens on Tuesday.

Raducanu became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam in the Open era when she defeated Leylah Fernandez in New York last September but the teenager has struggled to replicate the same form since, with early losses at Indian Wells and Linz.

She also contracted COVID-19 late last year and pulled out of the Australian Open warm-up tournament in Melbourne, before an early defeat by Elena Rybakina in Sydney but Raducanu said she was not bogged down by disappointing results. read more

“I think it’s going to be a tough match for sure. I’m going to go out there and enjoy the match because just playing in this Grand Slam, I had to work so hard to be here. Yeah, I’ll just go out there and enjoy,” Raducanu said ahead of Tuesday’s contest.

Three former French Open champions are also in action on the main showcourts at Melbourne Park, as Spaniard Garbine Muguruza takes on Clara Burel, Poland’s Iga Swiatek plays Harriet Dart and Romanian Simona Halep faces Magdalena Frech.

Among the men, Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev takes on Swiss Henri Laaksonen on Rod Laver Arena, while fourth-seeded Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas plays Swede Mikael Ymer. Russia’s Andrey Rublev is also in action against Italian Gianluca Mager.

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