Emma Raducanu sent a message to the rest of the WTA Tour as she came from a set down to defeat Linda Fruhvirtova 4-6 6-4 6-2 in her first match of the season at the ASB Classic in Auckland. After dropping the first set and going down an early break in the second, the world No 78 turned things around by winning 12 of 14 games to clinch victory in two hours and 28 minutes in a match that was rained off twice.
Raducanu stepped onto the court at the WTA 250 event in Auckland to play what was her first match in three months after her 2022 season was cut short by a wrist injury. The 20-year-old was hoping for a fresh start after a difficult freshman year on the tour and found herself coming up against a much younger opponent in a rare occurence, as she faced 17-year-old Fruhvirtova.
Ranked one place below the Brit at No 79 in the world, the Czech player is one of the few who has less experience on the tour than Raducanu, but Fruhvirtova didn’t let that bother her as she returned from the first rain delay of the match at 4-4 in the first set and broke the British No 1 in the final game of the opener to take it 6-4, then racing to a set-and-a-break lead as she stole the first two games of the second set.
It looked to be another opening-round loss for the 20-year-old who had experienced more than a fair share of early exits from tournaments in 2022, but Raducanu suddenly stepped it up and stomed back to win the next four games in a row to take the lead in the second set before closing it out 6-4.
JUST IN: Wimbledon icon Martina Navratilova diagnosed with two types of cancer
It was suddenly all Raducanu as the former world No 10 broke again to take a 1-0 lead in the third and final set but both players were suddenly forced to return to the locker room when the match was suspended due to rain. The world No 79 didn’t let the break disrupt her momentum though, as she returned and quickly stormed to 5-0, finding herself seving for the match.
But the 17-year-old failed to give up and managed to get her first break of the Raducanu serve since the start of the second set to stay alive. Fruhvirtova then saved three match points on her own serve before Raducanu finally closed out a 4-6 6-4 6-2 victory in two hours and 28 minutes.
It was an impressive performance from the 20-year-old, who had found herself in similar positions during matches in 2022 that ultimately resulted in defeat. And it was also a mark of her fitness following an injury-prone season that saw her retire from a match on four separate occasions, as she looked at the peak of her physical power despite a two-and-a-half-hour battle coupled with a rain delay.
Australian Open set to get Novak Djokovic wish as Serb welcomed back
Novak Djokovic feelings made clear before Australian Open comeback
Martina Navratilova’s wife vows ‘we’ll fight this’ amid cancer battle