As the day came to a close at Melbourne Park and the three-day first round of matches concluded on Tuesday evening, Emma Raducanu made a successful comeback to the grand slam stage with a dominant performance and a crucial victory over Shelby Rogers with a score of 6-3, 6-2, advancing to the second round.
After taking a break of eight months due to undergoing surgery on her hands and ankle in April, Raducanu’s recent win at a grand slam tournament marks a significant progress in her journey to regain her position among the top players in the world. This victory comes as her second since she returned to competing in January, following her first match in Auckland.
“I am delighted to have overcome that challenge,” Raducanu stated. “As my first match back in a Grand Slam, it is certainly even more satisfying.”
After their impactful initial encounter at the 2021 US Open, where Rogers achieved a personal best victory against Ash Barty, the former world No. 1, Raducanu dominated Rogers with a 6-2, 6-1 victory on her way to winning the title. In the time since, significant changes have occurred for both players. Raducanu was absent for eight months due to surgeries, while Rogers also underwent surgery last summer and had not competed since Wimbledon.
Initially, there were doubts surrounding Raducanu’s participation in the Australian Open due to her withdrawal from scheduled pre-tournament exhibitions. However, by the end of the week, her numerous rigorous training sessions and positive feedback from players she practiced with showed that she was prepared.
At the start of the game, Raducanu seemed determined to dominate by pushing herself closer to the baseline and hitting the ball early, smoothly transitioning between her forehand and backhand. After two close holds, she started to anticipate Rogers’s serves and returned them effectively, advancing closer to the baseline. She secured the crucial break of the set with a strong return game, and continued to serve well until the end of the set.
After securing the first set, Raducanu played more aggressively and confidently, managing to break Rogers’s serve in the first game of the second set and maintaining her strong performance until the end. In addition to her precise and powerful shots, Raducanu also showed good movement on the court, strategically using drop shots and relying on her reliable serve during crucial moments.
Following a strong but not particularly remarkable showing, Raducanu sealed the match with a final forehand winner. She marked the victory with a subtle fist-pump before taking time to sign autographs for fans, including Mark who had been supporting her throughout the 2021 US Open.
Later on, Raducanu expressed that her previous first-round matches during the past few years have taught her to approach the game with a more balanced mindset.
“I have come to understand that the margin between me potentially losing in the first round and performing well in a tournament is incredibly narrow,” she stated. “It all boils down to my movement and physical actions. I believe that by not making drastic changes, as I know I am already close to achieving my goals, and by consistently practicing, I will see improvement.”
Reworded: One year prior, Raducanu emerged victorious in her first-round match on the 1573 Arena court. Reflecting on the past 12 months, she shared that she not only dealt with an ankle sprain but also underwent surgery to remove a large cyst from her foot.
“I believe that this year, there is a sense of tranquility. I am more composed and the environment around me has stabilized. I am feeling better and there are fewer fluctuations in my emotions. It’s more of a balance.”
Raducanu mentioned her current team arrangement, specifically her recent collaboration with Nick Cavaday, one of her coaches from childhood, as evidence of the peaceful atmosphere she is experiencing. “I believe that organizing things according to my preferences, having the right people around me, has helped create a sense of calm,” she stated.
“I enjoy spending time with Nick. We’ve known each other since we were children and I feel very at ease with him. Overall, my life feels more calm and stable. After going through three surgeries and being away for eight months, I am extremely grateful to be able to move without any restrictions.”
The draw for Raducanu was advantageous, as she faced a player with less match experience and more rust than herself. This allowed her to gradually return to playing at a high level. However, she will face tougher opponents in the future, beginning with Wang Yafan of China in the second round on Thursday. Wang Yafan, ranked 97th in the world, defeated Sorana Cirstea 0-6, 7-5, 6-2 earlier on Tuesday.