Australian Open: Emma Raducanu falls as high women’s seeds upset

2022 Australian Open: Day 4
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Emma Raducanu, the surprise U.S. Open champion, was among four of the top 17 women’s seeds to fall in the Australian Open second round on Thursday.

Danka Kovinic, a Montenegrin ranked 98th, beat Raducanu 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 after the Brit got treatment for a blister on her right hand in the first set.

“Some people in my team didn’t want me to even go out there. So I fought so hard just to come out to Australia and play here, and I didn’t want to go out like that. So I just left it all out on the court,” said the 19-year-old Raducanu, who had to isolate in December after testing positive for the coronavirus. “I have been struggling with blisters since I started playing in Australia because 21 days, no tennis, my hands got pretty soft.

“I have had blisters before but never this bad. It’s quite deep, and it’s just in a very awkward position that it’s so difficult to tape.”

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Earlier, No. 3 Garbiñe Muguruza and No. 6 Anett Kontaveit, who met for the WTA Finals title in November, lost the first matches on the two main show courts.

French veteran Alizé Cornet dispatched Muguruza, a two-time major champion who was a set from winning the 2020 Australian Open, 6-3, 6-3. Danish 19-year-old Clara Tauson, a former junior No. 1, took out Kontaveit 6-2, 6-4.

No. 12 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan retired from her second-round match with China’s Zhang Shuai due to a leg injury.

Raducanu, at 19, is admittedly still learning the ropes of professional tennis at the highest level. At this time last year, she was still five months away from her first tour-level, main-draw match. Then she made the fourth round of Wimbledon and became the first qualifier to win a major at the U.S. Open.

Raducanu then changed coaches and went 2-4 in six matches between the U.S. Open and Australian Open.

The Spaniard Muguruza continued her maddening Grand Slam career.

She won the 2016 French Open and 2017 Wimbledon, plus made two other major finals and twice beat a top-ranked Serena Williams at Roland Garros. She also lost in the first or second round of a major at least once in all 11 years of her career, including 10 times in 22 starts since her first Slam title.

“It’s been a pretty stressful start of the year also with my team,” Muguruza said. “They all got COVID before coming here. We were, like, for 15 days apart.”

Cornet’s biggest claim to fame was thrice beating a top-ranked Williams in 2014, including at Wimbledon. The 31-year-old has been on the cusp of breaking through — reaching No. 11 in the world in 2009 and making the fourth round of every major, but never a quarterfinal. She is now ranked 61st.

Cornet next gets No. 29 seed Tamara Zidanšek of Slovenia.

“I’m telling myself that I’m playing probably my last year,” said Cornet, noting she wants to break the women’s record for consecutive majors played. She is at 60, two shy of Ai Sugiyama‘s mark.

Kontaveit, the highest-ranked Estonian in history, won three tournaments last fall, and nearly a fourth at the WTA Finals, to break into the top 10 for the first time and finish the year at No. 7. Her form continued this season, reaching the semifinals of an Australian Open lead-up event.

Tauson won the 2019 Australian Open girls’ title a month after turning 16, then won two WTA tournaments last year. American Coco Gauff is the only player in the top 200 who is younger than Tauson.

Tauson next gets 27th-seeded American Danielle Collins.

No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka continued to struggle with her serve, yet eked out another three-set win to reach round three. She double faulted 19 times — six in the first game alone — but beat China’s 100th-ranked Wang Xinyu 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.

The only other single-digit seed left in the bottom half is No. 7 Iga Swiatek, who has dropped seven games in two matches.

In the men’s draw, No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev took out Australian showman Nick Kyrgios 7-6 (1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. Medvedev, the favorite after Novak Djokovic‘s deportation, would not play a seed until the quarterfinals after all the other top players in his section were upset.

Andy Murray fell to 120th-ranked Taro Daniel of Japan 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

No. 20 Taylor Fritz felt a right leg cramp as he celebrated a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5) win over fellow American Frances Tiafoe. Fritz, the highest-ranked American man, gets No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round.

Australian Open Day 5 Schedule

On Friday, top-ranked Ash Barty and defending champion Naomi Osaka are in action, each a win away from facing each other in the fourth round.

Barty, who dropped three games between her first two matches, faces her first seed in No. 30 Camila Giorgi of Italy. Osaka gets dangerous American Amanda Anisimova, a 2019 French Open semifinalist at age 17 who is back on the rise after a challenging two years.

Rafael Nadal, the only past champion in the men’s field, faces a top-40 player for the first time since losing last year’s French Open semifinal to Novak Djokovic. It’s No. 28 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia.

The other marquee men’s matches are No. 7 Matteo Berrettini vs. No. 31 Carlos Alcaraz and No. 19 Pablo Carreño Busta vs. American Sebastian Korda.

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