Emma Raducanu fights back to sink Linda Noskova at French Open

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<span>Photograph: TPN/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: TPN/Getty Images

Throughout the past 11 months as she has made her first journey around the WTA tour, every time Emma Raducanu has stepped on to a tennis court she has had to battle against the greater experience of her opponents as well as the quality of their games. Her sparse competitive record has meant that even opponents around the same age as her marched on to the court far more mentally and physically prepared for the fight to come.

But on a damp, rainy evening on Court Simonne-Mathieu, Raducanu faced a completely different scenario. For the first time in her career at the highest level, even on her French Open debut, she was both the elder and more experienced player on the court.

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As she faced a picture of precocity in the 17-year-old Czech Linda Noskova, a grand slam qualifying debutant just one week ago who immediately won three rounds to reach her first main draw, Raducanu dug deep to hold her off, recovering from a set and break down to reach the second round in Paris with a 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-1 win in two hours, 37 minutes.

“It was an absolute battle. I have to say Linda is playing some amazing tennis and she really came out there firing,” Raducanu said. “As soon as I dropped my ball speed, she was all over me and killing me from the end of the first set.”

Despite breaking serve early in that first set, Raducanu was too passive from the beginning, opting to disrupt Noskova with copious looping balls and elongating points rather than imposing herself from inside the baseline.

Noskova, meanwhile, knew exactly what she wanted to do in the biggest moment of her young career so far: attack. She took the ball daringly early with pristine timing, smothered all short balls and every time an opportunity to take her favoured backhand down the line opened up, Noskova took it on without a hint of doubt. Both in style and daring, she was not so dissimilar to the fearless Raducanu of last year before the blessing and burden of being a grand slam champion.

Watch: Emma Raducanu wins 2021 Laureus Breakthrough of the Year Award

As the first set wore on, Noskova’s confidence grew and it culminated in a stunning tiebreak triumph. She continued to blaze through the second set, breaking serve with a perfect return game to go ahead 4-3.

As the match reached its most pivotal moments, Raducanu slowly began to creep closer to the baseline, taking the ball earlier and responding to Noskova’s fire with some of her own. Under pressure by Raducanu for the first time, Noskova offered up more errors. The gritty set ended with a touch of magic as Raducanu snatched it with a sweet winning drop shot.

With the momentum on her side, and Noskova’s high-octane attacking laced with far more frequent errors, Raducanu moved swiftly through the third set and into the second round. Even though Raducanu was heavily favoured to win, she demonstrated her toughness in addition to her durability after so many recent ailments.

“I knew that if I got through some really tough moments in the second set, it might get to her,” Raducanu said. “And I think in the third set I definitely was able to kind of keep pushing. Eventually I was dominating more and more. I was pretty pleased.

“Physically, I think I was really good out there. I lasted the whole three sets. I was really good. I was also thinking I’m going to outcompete her.”

After a day of rest, Raducanu will face Aliaksandra Sasnovich, the world No 47, for a place in the third round.

Earlier on Monday, the defending champion, Barbora Krejcikova, was taken out in the first round by French teenager, Diane Parry, losing 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 after leading 2-0 in set two.

Krejcikova, the second seed, was competing in her first match since February after suffering an elbow injury.

“I think I just collapsed physically, and it was tough because I didn’t play the matches,” said Krejcikova. “Usually the matches are different than the practices, and I tried to prepare the best way I could. But, yeah, I collapsed.”

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