MELBOURNE, Australia — Coco Gauff versus Emma Raducanu gave the impression of quite a tennis match for a recent age. The Australian Open organizers clearly agreed and gave the children top billing: 7 p.m. in Rod Laver Arena to open the night session Wednesday.
“I’m glad we got the prime spot,” Gauff said. “I hope we delivered.”
After a shaky, error-strewn start, their first profession meeting had its moments. Above all, it had some prolonged, tight-to-the-baseline rallies with Raducanu throwing her body into her shots and Gauff using her speed and anticipation to chase down balls that few others could have reached.
It was high-velocity entertainment, punch against counterpunch, Raducanu’s fluidity and full-cut returns versus Gauff’s more explosive movement and powerful serve.
That Gauff prevailed, 6-3, 7-6 (4), was no big surprise, even when she had to avoid wasting two set points within the second set. She, for now, is the more completed and consistent player. She is the one in the highest 10, the one with multiple tour titles in singles and doubles, the one who has been competing recurrently on the circuit since 2019.
And yet Raducanu, despite being ranked just No. 77 in the intervening time, has already acquired what Gauff is chasing: a Grand Slam title. On the 2021 U.S. Open, Raducanu became the primary singles qualifier to win a serious in what felt more like a fairy tale than a sporting event.
She didn’t lose a set in 10 matches in Recent York, becoming a worldwide star at age 18. Gauff, who beat Venus Williams at age 15 on her method to reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2019, can relate, but only to a level.
“I feel like she experienced it on a much greater level than I did,” Gauff said of becoming a public figure. “But coming on tour young, it’s a unique life from juniors, playing in small events, to abruptly people knowing your name, people expecting you to win on a regular basis.”
The 2023 Australian Open
The yr’s first Grand Slam tennis tournament runs from Jan. 16 to Jan. 29 in Melbourne.
It quickly became apparent that Raducanu was not going to win on a regular basis, that she had one way or the other gotten into the zone very early and may not find her way back again for quite some time, if in any respect. She has yet to win one other tour title or get past the second round in one other major, and she or he has cycled through coaches and nagging injuries just like the ankle she sprained badly lower than two weeks before the beginning of the Australian Open.
“We just did absolutely every little thing we are able to,” Raducanu said. “We had just about, like, 10 days before the tournament, and Day 1, I used to be on crutches and doing pool rehab. To get onto the court from there was an enormous effort.”
Meanwhile, Gauff opened her season in Auckland, Recent Zealand, by winning the title and arrived in Melbourne with momentum.
She is going to face one other American, Bernarda Pera, within the third round Friday and is playing doubles with Jessica Pegula, who also advanced to the third round in singles on Wednesday by defeating Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus in straight sets.
Though she broke through to succeed in her first Grand Slam singles final on the French Open last yr, losing to No. 1 Iga Swiatek, Gauff finished the season on a downbeat: hitting the wall after her first full yr on tour and losing all three of her matches on the WTA Finals in Fort Value and losing again after crossing the Atlantic to Glasgow for the Billie Jean King Cup Finals team event.
Her forehand, traditionally her less reliable stroke, kept breaking down under duress, and shoring it up was again a degree of focus for her and her team in the course of the off-season.
Improving it and her belief in it can be critical to achieving her Grand Slam goal, and it held up well for much of the match Wednesday only to get shakier down the stretch within the second set as Raducanu targeted it repeatedly.
“I’m just completely happy that, I assume through the work that I did within the preseason, that it’s understanding,” she said. “I realize it’s one in every of the things that I needed to work on. I feel prefer it’s improving every match, every week.”
She definitely defended well off each wings Wednesday night, extending rallies and ultimately forcing Raducanu to go for an excessive amount of.
“It’s difficult,” Raducanu said. “She is a terrific mover, great athlete — puts one other ball in play, so you are feeling like you’ve got to squeeze it closer to the road after which she type of teases errors out of you that way.”
When Gauff served at 4-5 within the second set, Raducanu had command of each of the set points, dictating the patterns and terms of engagement only to miss when it got here time to seal the deal.
Her backhand drop shot on the second set point would have clearly been a winner if it had crossed the web, nevertheless it hit the tape and fell back on Raducanu’s side of the court. Within the tiebreaker, she lost three more key points when she was the one setting the tempo.
“I feel 13 days ago in case you would have told us, ‘Hey, you’re going to be within the draw and win a round,’ it will have been an enormous effort needless to say,” Raducanu said. “Saying that, I still think I didn’t necessarily play my best today. Although within the second set I had probabilities and we were pushing it, I still felt like I could have done higher. But props to her.”
Raducanu and Gauff had never even practiced together, but when it was over Wednesday, the handshake gave method to a friendly embrace at the web. They’re based an ocean apart: Raducanu in Britain; Gauff in Florida. But they’re each brilliant and personable with a growing list of sponsors and commitments.
“I feel that we’re going to be playing one another repeatedly in the long run as we’re each young and coming,” Raducanu said. “We’re going to be the subsequent generation.”
Each would embrace more matches against one another. The lads’s game has been awash in transcendent rivalries for many years: from Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. But the ladies’s game has often lacked that type of anchor, and Ashleigh Barty’s sudden retirement last March at age 25 and while ranked No. 1 will only make it tougher to develop.
Gauff, who is smart beyond her 18 years, is specializing in the long view after affected by putting an excessive amount of emphasis on the short term.
“For me, last yr was my first full yr on tour. I feel last yr was her first yr as well,” she said of Raducanu. “I feel it’s something people need to recollect and be reminded of.”
She hopes people give her at 18 and Raducanu at 20 more time and room to ride the educational curve, and she or he acknowledged that she needed to search out more joy in the method.
“I feel like I’ve been on the alternative spectrum where I forget my age,” she said. “I almost put an excessive amount of pressure on myself, wanting things now, now, now. I feel I’ve taken a step back. I felt like I didn’t ever wish to use my age as an excuse for losing or why I’m not accomplishing things. But I feel it was putting an excessive amount of pressure on myself.”