Countdown: Clare Balding pays tribute to Emma Raducanu
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Emma Raducanu put on a fighting performance against Iga Swiatek – but it was not enough to beat the world number one as her Stuttgart Open campaign came to an end on Friday. Despite the result, a 6-4, 6-4 defeat to the Pole, it was the sort of resilient showing which will give her confidence heading into a busy summer of tennis action.
It was always going to be difficult for the young Briton to overcome her opponent, despite winning her first two matches in Germany. The teenager swept Storm Sanders aside and battled to overcome Tamara Korpatsch, but the best women’s player around is a different prospect entirely.
This meeting marked the first time Raducanu had faced a top 10-ranked player on the WTA Tour – remarkable considering she is already a Grand Slam champion and has the same number of major titles as Swiatek. The Pole is no veteran, but has a wealth of experience compared to the young Briton and it showed on the clay court in Stuttgart.
Raducanu was playing only her fifth ever professional match on this surface. The other four had yielded three victories so she had clearly taken to the clay well, but Swiatek’s Grand Slam title came at the French Open in 2020 and she has proven herself to truly be adept on the slidey courts.
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Things started poorly for the 19-year-old, who was broken straight away. It might have been a sign of things to come, but she rallied impressively to make sure that was the only time she would lose her serve in the first set.
Sadly it wasn’t enough to avoid falling behind, as Swiatek pressed home the advantage to take the first set 6-4. Raducanu put in commendable effort, though, to force the Pole into having to hold all her own serves to see out the set, while also playing some very nice point-winners to which her opponent had no answer.
History repeated itself at the start of the second set as Swiatek broke, and Raducanu would have been fearing that the match was slipping away from her. She broke back in the very next game, which should have been a huge confidence booster, but she was suffocated by Swiatek in a deuce battle which saw the Briton lose her serve once again.
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It was after losing that game that Raducanu called on the trainer, apparently struggling with pain in her lower back. After some stretches on the side of the court, it was decided that she needed a medical time-out and walked out of the arena to receive further treatment for the problem.
After around five minutes she reappeared to warm applause from the crowd, and was clearly satisfied that she could continue as she marched over and picked up her racket in businesslike fashion. But the break did not help to change the tide of the match as Swiatek held her serve to go 3-1 ahead and give her teenage opponent a real mountain to climb.
Swiatek went on to seal the victory without breaking too much more of a sweat, but this defeat was still the end of a very productive week for Raducanu. After back-to-back victories for the first time since last October, the young Briton performed admirably against the best player in the world right now, and will have learned a lot that she can take into what promises to be a busy summer on clay and grass.
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