MELBOURNE, Australia — Emma Raducanu’s face lit up with pleasure throughout her first-round press convention on the Australian Open when she realized her subsequent opponent at Melbourne Park could be fellow WTA rising star Coco Gauff.
The pair will meet Wednesday night on Rod Laver Arena, and whereas it could solely be for a spot within the final 32 of the event, it is a blockbuster matchup worthy of being performed deep within the second week of any main.
The purpose for such an early encounter? The two have had vastly totally different fortunes over the previous 18 months.
Raducanu’s kind has been trending within the incorrect path ever since she triumphed on the 2021 US Open as a youngster. In 2022, she managed simply three Grand Slam wins, break up with coach Torben Beltz and battled a number of minor accidents. As a end result, her world rating, which peaked at No. 10 after her run in New York, plummeted to 77.
Meanwhile, Gauff has vaulted from twenty second to fourth within the rankings over the identical interval, courtesy of a maiden Slam closing look on the French Open in June, in addition to a quarterfinal berth on the US Open. Gauff is seeded seventh for this fortnight in Melbourne and amongst the favorites to win the title.
“I think we’re both good, young players,” Raducanu stated on Day 1 of the event. “We’re both coming through as part of the next generation of tennis.”
Gauff and Raducanu have by no means met in skilled competitors, so when the 2 brilliant stars of the ladies’s circuit stroll out to middle courtroom at a Grand Slam, you higher get that popcorn prepared.
Why Coco Gauff will win
Gauff put the ladies’s draw on discover with a dominant first spherical win over Katerina Siniakova, dismantling the Czech 6-1, 6-4 inside 75 minutes.
As anticipated, her uncooked energy and aggression have been actual options. Gauff struck the second-fastest serve of the event up to now, at 193km/h (120mph), and made a behavior of profitable factors when her first serve landed in play (77%). She additionally displayed large poise and management from the backhand wing, the place she discovered eight winners.
Gauff will look to those areas once more when she faces Raducanu, who would possibly battle early within the contest to regulate to what shall be a major rise in energy from her first-round opponent.
“She’s a great athlete with some real weapons,” Raducanu stated of Gauff. “She’s playing really good tennis and looking really solid.”
The doubles pedigree of Gauff additionally offers her a major edge. She not often turns down a chance to maneuver contained in the baseline and is as efficient as any participant on Tour as soon as she has approached the web. In her opener, Gauff made a transfer to the web 19 occasions, profitable 15 of these factors.
Why Emma Raducanu will win
There was actual doubt Raducanu would even characteristic in the primary draw at Melbourne Park after she took a nasty tumble and twisted her ankle on the ASB Classic in Auckland earlier this month.
But after a nervy begin, she, like Gauff, impressed in her first outing on the Australian Open with a snug 6-3, 6-2 win over Germany’s Tamara Korpatsch.
Gauff is clearly the shape participant proper now, however Raducanu is aware of she will nonetheless step up her recreation and play at a considerably greater stage. She struck 34 unforced errors in opposition to Korpatsch, but was all the time in agency management of the match.
Raducanu will look to increase rallies in opposition to Gauff and power the 18-year-old into making errors. It’s an space the place Gauff confirmed weak spot in her opener, dropping 14 of the 19 factors by which rallies lasted not less than 9 photographs.
And whereas being unseeded at a significant is way from perfect, evidenced by a second-round date with Gauff, maybe a profit is the discharge of stress. Raducanu has performed her greatest tennis when she hasn’t been anticipated to, and getting into this match as a agency outsider may gain advantage her.
What will occur?
The pair’s rankings are the place they’re for a purpose. Gauff’s purple patch continued into 2023 by profitable the title in Auckland with out dropping a set, earlier than trying ominous in her first spherical in Melbourne. She ought to be profitable this in straight units, too.