MELBOURNE, Australia –This time British teen sensation Emma Raducanu did not have all the solutions to a Grand Slam puzzle as a combination of a blistered racket hand and an inspired Danka Kovinic derailed her Australian Open challenge in the second round.
The 17th seed, who rocketed to fame by winning last year’s US Open as a qualifier without losing a set, gritted her teeth through the discomfort to stay in contention in a tense clash but fell to a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 defeat.
Nineteen-year-old Raducanu, who beat former US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the first round to take her Grand Slam main draw record to an incredible 11-1 from three events, needed treatment after the fifth game of the first set.
With her hand taped she was unable to deliver her usual baseline power and resorted to slicing virtually every forehand.
Incredibly she turned the shot of choice for many a club hacker into a weapon and at times the 98th-ranked Kovinic seemed at a loss to know how to handle it.
But the 27-year-old Montenegran showed great composure to dominate the deciding set and move into the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career.
Raducanu was still smiling as she congratulated her opponent at the net and while the loss will sting like her blistered hand for a while, she will look back with few regrets and will regard the match as part of her steep learning curve.
There was little hint of the problems to come as Raducanu came out firing on a warm evening on Margaret Court Arena, breaking her opponent’s serve twice to lead 3-0.
Kovinic soon settled down though and began to strike the ball with menace as she took the next two games.
At the changeover Raducanu, who played only one match in the buildup to the Open and lost that heavily, asked for a medical timeout to have her blisters treated and tape applied.
It clearly hampered Raducanu, especially on the forehand, and Kovinic won the next three games to lead 5-3. Raducanu managed to break serve again but Kovinic replied immediately to take the opening set.
Bizarrely Kovinic kept hitting to Raducanu’s backhand side in the second set and got increasingly tight, dropping serve at 4-4 as the match went into a decider.
Despite the blisters and lack of experience, Raducanu looked like the favorite as the third set began.
But Kovinic dug deep to keep her nose in front at the start of the decider with some aggressive hitting and Raducanu looked weary as she slipped 2-5 down.
Serving for the match at 5-3, Kovinic saw one match point disappear as Raducanu belted a forehand winner, but she converted the second with stunning backhand down the line. – Rappler.com