Emma Raducanu inspired by Andy Murray’s fighting spirit at Australian Open

Raducanu watched Murray’s five-set win over Nikoloz Basilashvili before joining him in the second round.

Eleanor Crooks
Wednesday 19 January 2022 08:00
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Emma Raducanu is targeting a place in round three (Tertius Pickard/AP)
Emma Raducanu is targeting a place in round three (Tertius Pickard/AP)

Emma Raducanu took inspiration from Andy Murray’s fighting spirit to break new ground at the Australian Open.

The 19-year-old made it 11 wins from 12 main draw matches at grand slam level by defeating fellow US Open champion Sloane Stephens 6-0 2-6 6-1 in the first round in Melbourne.

Amazingly, it was the first time Raducanu had played a deciding set at a grand slam having won three matches at Wimbledon and seven in New York – as well as three in qualifying – all in straight sets.

The teenager’s late-night success made it four British players through on Tuesday, among them Murray, who survived a typically-gruelling battle with Nikoloz Basilashvili in five sets.

Raducanu told the PA news agency: “When I was in the third set I actually thought, ‘Andy was up a set then he got pushed to five but he fought back so hard and took the decider’, so, when I went to three, I was also thinking, ‘Actually, I can fight back and win, fight like he did’. I was definitely inspired by him.”

It was Murray’s first win at Melbourne Park for five years and his first appearance since he watched a tribute video from his fellow players in 2019 sending him into retirement after he opened up about the extent of his hip problems.

Andy Murray showed his fighting abilities again on Tuesday (Andy Brownbill/AP)

He still managed to push Roberto Bautista Agut to five sets prior to his resurfacing surgery, and among those watching on TV back home was Raducanu.

“I’ve watched so many of Andy’s matches, all his finals here in Australia, but his match against Agut was some of the best fighting I’ve ever seen,” she said. “It’s great to have a role model like him leading British tennis.”

That mantle passed at least partly to Raducanu following her outstanding success in New York, which has made her a star around the world.

Fans in Melbourne were clearly excited to see her take on Stephens on Margert Court Arena and the teenager answered questions around her form and fitness impressively.

Emma Raducanu is a big draw in Melbourne (Tertius Pickard/AP)

An ill-timed bout of Covid-19 last month disrupted Raducanu’s pre-season and her lack of preparation showed in a 6-0 6-1 defeat by Elena Rybakina in Sydney last week.

But hard work with new coach Torben Beltz paid off as she set up a second-round clash with Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic on Thursday.

“If you would have asked me a week ago after Sydney if I could turn it around this quickly, I would have been surprised, pleasantly,” said Raducanu.

“I definitely am very proud of myself how far I’ve come over the last few weeks and just having that positive attitude after getting one game on the scoreboard last week, to not let that defeat me and actually just keep working and chipping away, and I was rewarded for it.”

Having stayed in school to complete her A Levels last spring, Raducanu has only been a full-time tennis player for a few months, and she is likely to pursue more academic goals in the future.

She is working on her Mandarin in Melbourne but the day job is very much taking precedence.

I literally spend 12 hours a day at the club. Everyone in my team is like, 'What are you doing?'

“I’m actually speaking Mandarin with my mum and some of the Chinese players here,” said the 17th seed.

“But I literally spend 12 hours a day at the club. Everyone in my team is like, ‘What are you doing?’ But I feel like I don’t know where the time goes.”

An indication of Raducanu’s pull is that she has been given the night session again against Kovinic, a 27-year-old ranked 98 who was beaten 6-0 6-0 by Ashleigh Barty here last year.

Another victory is likely to set up first career meeting with one of Raducanu’s idols, two-time grand slam champion Simona Halep.

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