Supporters Heartbroken As Emma Raducanu Bows Out Of Australia Open 2022

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Emma Raducanu was warned by her team not to play in the Australian Open second round because of a blister on her racquet hand that hampered the Briton in the defeat by Danka Kovinic.

The US Open champion, 19, raced into a 3-0 lead before needing treatment on her hand and losing the opening set.

She fought back to win the second set but was beaten 6-4 4-6 6-3 by the world number 98 on Margaret Court Arena.

Raducanu says she has been nursing the blister for about five days.

She has been “trying every solution” to tape the affected area because it “kept ripping off”.

“It has been a challenge, for sure,” she told BBC Sport. “The past few days I have been really hindered in my practice and couldn’t hit any forehands or serves at all.

“Some people in my team didn’t really want me to go out there. I wanted to go and fight and see how far that would take me.”

However, Raducanu says the experience showed she is “probably tougher than I thought in terms of playing through that much pain”.
“I also learnt that I have got some hand skills, even though some people tell me I’ve got the hands of a bricklayer,” she added.

“If I can use these sort of hand skills, and improve it going forward and mix it with my aggressive game, I think I can be pretty dangerous.”

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Raducanu had only lost one Grand Slam match before this meeting and while she may ultimately have been defeated, the Briton will surely have won even more admirers for her gutsy display.

The teenager has been spending almost 12 hours on site every day to “get my business done”, which she says means training, having lunch, doing recovery, more training, gym work and then more recovery.

That extra work initially paid dividends as Raducanu delivered the perfect start, breaking in the opening game and storming into a 3-0 lead.

She looked set to replicate her first-round meeting against Sloane Stephens, where she claimed the opening set without dropping a game, although she was then taken to a deciding set by the American for the first time in her Grand Slam career.
The blister then started to affect Raducanu and, at 3-2 after Kovinic had responded by winning two games, the Briton took a medical timeout for treatment.

She double faulted on her return to the court and looked tentative as Kovinic broke again to level and completed the turnaround by winning five games in a row.

A toiling Raducanu strung together a series of cleverly constructed points to break for the third time, but that resistance was short lived as Kovinic closed out the set.

Raducanu digs in despite the pain
If Kovinic believed the second set would continue as a similar procession then Raducanu, smiling through gritted teeth, had other ideas.

The teenager seemed to be effectively playing with just a backhand at times, jabbing and slicing on her forehand side to minimize the discomfort as she opened up a 3-1 lead.

First-round opponent Stephens, a former US Open champion herself, warned Raducanu after their meeting that the teenager will have to learn to deal with “ups and downs”.

But Raducanu is a star student and showed during this chapter of her early Grand Slam education that she can learn on the job, letting out a huge “come on” after her adapted approach made it 4-2.
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The world number 18 had a chance to extend that advantage with break point on Kovinic’s serve, but the Montenegrin displayed tactical nous and composure of her own to hold.

Raducanu appeared to be grimacing with every forehand yet still chalked up another two break points at 4-4 and converted a superb winner off the troublesome side.

The guile and desire that made her the first British woman to win a Grand Slam since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977 then shone through.

Raducanu complemented a punchy serve with aggressive groundstrokes to fend off two break-back points and take the second set, shaking her blistered hand in celebration.
Kovinic took a long bathroom break before the decider, no doubt wondering how she had failed to close out the match in two sets against an injured opponent.

Indeed it was Raducanu who missed early break points and then, on a sweltering day in Melbourne where temperatures touched 30C, the Briton began to look fatigued for the first time as Kovinic converted her own to open up a 3-1 lead.

Both players looked on as the crowd cheered a seagull circling inside the arena, and it looked like the breather Raducanu needed, as she broke back to love.

But it was Kovinic who outlasted her opponent in the final set.

She teed up two match points and although she watched the first scream back past her off a Raducanu forehand winner, she then found the corner with a backhand to cap a fine display and reach the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career.

“It was a really nice experience to play Emma here and make the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time after many years,” said Kovinic, the world number 98.

“Emma has had amazing results, winning a Grand Slam at such a young age. She is an amazing talent. I’m just so happy I could play such a high level.

“I was a little bit low in my energy through the third set so I tried to focus on myself, not show much emotion and save my energy.”
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Analysis
BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller

There was a brief period, midway through the first set, when Emma Raducanu looked quite agitated about the blister that was preventing her playing her natural game.

Unable to hit her usual topspin forehand, because of a red raw blister on her serving hand, she began to improvise.

She hit virtually every single forehand with slice in the second set, and was able to level the match, even though she says she has been told in the past that she has the “hands of a bricklayer”.

The 19-year-old has gained some more invaluable Grand Slam experience here in Melbourne, even though her Australian Open debut lasted just two matches.

She beat a fellow Grand Slam champion – Sloane Stephens – for the first time in the first round, and won a deciding set in a Slam, which was also a first.

And then against Danka Kovinic she had to think on her feet in the face of adversity – and in the process developed a new trick which could prove very useful in future matches.

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