Everything was in place for Australian qualifier Storm Sanders to pull off a rare old sensation at the Stuttgart Open – but Emma Raducanu had other ideas.
The British teen sensation Raducanu, who’s inevitably found it hard going to follow up her unprecedented US Open title win, brushed aside all the questions over her confidence and fitness on Wednesday to give the Queenslander a lesson in a 6-1 6-2 drubbing.
Rockhampton’s Sanders had gone to the match with high hopes of earning the biggest win of her career on the back of two victories to qualify for the main draw of the clay court event.
She was up against an absolute beginner on clay, with Raducanu having also recently struggled with foot blisters as she prepared for her first-ever tour-level match on the surface.
But showing once again why she is such a rare talent, the 19-year-old Briton survived early buffeting before blowing away the Australian’s challenge.
What was most impressive was how Raducanu was able to think on her feet, changing tactics in the fourth game to throw in a couple of looping ‘moon balls’ which took the world No.197 right out of a nice early rhythm.
Showing more variety than the Australian and operating with a different level of power, Raducanu began to make the 185-place gulf in their rankings resemble the chasm it really is as she reeled off her victory in 71 minutes.
She made it look straightforward but reckoned it had felt very different after Sanders, who had given her a tough match on grass at Nottingham last year, started so impressively.
“Definitely wasn’t easy,” said Raducanu. “I feel like there were many long deuce games, so I’m very happy to have battled through against Storm.
“She’s played two matches in qualifying and she’s a great opponent who’s extremely tricky, so I’m just really happy to have somehow found a way to come through those long games and put on a good performance.”
Raducanu, who suffered from a blister on her foot when playing for GB at the Billie Jean King Cup in Prague at the weekend, did take a little while to find her rhythm but soon looked at home.
“It has been difficult to transition to clay,” she explained.
“Last week I was being taught how to slide on the clay using a medicine ball. To have come this far in the space of a week I am very happy.”
She’ll next play Germany’s Tamara Korpatsch in the round of 16, with the winner to then face top seed Iga Swiatek, who’s hoping to succeed Ash Barty, her predecessor as world No.1, as title winner on Sunday.
Poland’s Swiatek stretched her winning streak to 20 matches with a 6-1 6-1 win over German debutante Eva Lys in the second round, chalking up a 26th set win in a row – the longest streak since Serena Williams won 28 consecutive sets between the 2012 US Open and 2013 Australian Open.
In the match of the day between former Stuttgart champs, sixth seed Karolina Pliskova came from 4-1 down in the third set to edge Czech compatriot Petra Kvitova 6-4 4-6 7-6 (7-5).
Meanwhile in Turkey, Ajla Tomljanovic, who’s taken over as Australian No.1 from the newly-retired Barty, has made it into the Istanbul Tennis Championship round of 16 after a comprehensive 6-1 6-3 win over her compatriot Jaimee Fourlis.