Emma Raducanu is the US Open champion, she has reached the second week of Wimbledon and her name is already known across the world. Y todavía, in the silence of a spacious stadium in Cluj-Napoca before only a smattering of tournament staff and affiliates, the 18-year-old ticked off two of the many elementary achievements every top 100 player aside from her had long completed: she played a tour-level three-set match for the first time, and she won her first match at a WTA tournament.
It took considerable grit in an extremely tough contest that she very nearly lost, but Raducanu shrugged off her frustration and elevated her level in the pivotal moments to recover from a set down and defeat Polona Hercog of Slovenia 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. It is Raducanu’s first win since her New York triumph and she will face the home favourite Ana Bogdan in the second round of the Transylvania Open.
“It feels like a huge win, to be honest,” Raducanu said. “It’s actually my first WTA Tour win, which makes me very, very happy. But I think the key was to just try and stay mentally composed. And I knew I wasn’t playing very well. So I just needed to keep going one point at a time, and I thought that if I kept giving myself the chance by holding serve, then maybe my tennis would improve and fall into place a bit better and it did.
“I’m really proud of myself for how I fought today. All of the matches I’m playing, I’m just gaining in experience and I feel like that one today definitely counts a huge part to that. Because when you’re not playing very well, you know you can do better and just pulling it through. And also after dropping the first set, it hasn’t happened to me very often so fast. I think that I learned to just try and dig in and I can turn matches around.”
Más que 100 ranking spots separate Hercog, el mundo no 124, from Raducanu, and the Slovenian also prefers to play on clay. But for a long period their match on the slow courts of Cluj-Napoca reflected the fact Raducanu would have been the lower-ranked player before the US Open.
To her credit, Hercog is blessed with considerable athletic talents, potent topspin on her serve and forehand, and a vast, varied toolbox. Raducanu had taken an early break but as the first set endured, Hercog’s quality came to the fore. Her first serve improved, her backhand slice began to irritate Raducanu and she slowly began to find more forehands. Under pressure for the first time at 4-1, particularly in the forehand exchanges that Hercog dominated, Raducanu was unable to keep up. She lost her first service game meekly, and under siege from her forehand wing, she shanked a shot wide on break point at 4-4. Hercog quickly served out the opening set 6-4, winning five games in a row.
In the second set Raducanu regrouped and served well throughout the first seven games. But as the set reached its most important moments she faced a break point at both 4-4 y 5-5, the match hanging in the balance. On the first break point she stepped inside the baseline and nailed a winning crosscourt backhand. On the second break point she produced a surprise skidding slice that died on the court and won her the point.
As opportunities continually evaded Hercog, the momentum slowly shifted. The pressure that Raducanu had withstood slowly shifted to the Slovenian as she served to stay in the set at 5-6. As Raducanu continued to rise to the big points, Hercog missed first serves, produced too many errors and meekly conceded the set on her third set point. After all of her struggles during the match, as soon as Raducanu levelled she never looked back. With help from an utterly defeated Hercog, she navigated a comfortable final set to secure her first WTA win.
She performed with even more self-confidence in her post-match interview, brushing off the English questions from the former Romanian player Alexandra Dulgheru and responding in fluid Romanian.
As the new No 1 British women’s player moved on from her US Open success, so did the new No 1 British men’s player at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna, as Cameron Norrie contested his first match since his own breakthrough title at the BNP Paribas Open. Norrie trailed Marton Fucsovics 1-4 in the opening set of his first-round match, but he clinched 11 of the final 14 games to win. Norrie will next face Félix Auger-Aliassime as he continues his attempts to qualify for the ATP Finals.
Norrie later explained why he does not feel that his triumph at Indian Wells has changed the way he conducts himself on the court. “It’s dangerous. When you win a title like that, you think you are going to go out and chop guys two and two just because you have won. For me it was important to go out and tell myself before the match it would be difficult.”