Sydney, Jan 11 (IANS) Ninth seed Elena Rybakina continued her strong start to 2022 by beating U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu in the first round of the Sydney Tennis Classic tournament, here on Tuesday.
The 22-year-old Rybakina, who reached her eighth career final in Adelaide last week, needed just 55 minutes to storm past Raducanu 6-0, 6-1 in the first round.
Raducanu, who tested positive for Covid-19 last month and withdrew from the Melbourne Summer Set last week due to needing more preparation time, was still competing in just her eighth WTA-level main draw. The result is the Briton’s first loss to a Top 20 player in three meetings, and the heaviest of her professional career by the scoreline.
The 19-year-old started positively with a pair of one-two punches. But three double faults followed in the same game, and she never regained any momentum after that opening loss of serve. She committed six double faults in total, and did not reach the game point again until the fourth game of the second set — converted as Rybakina sent a backhand long.
World No 13 Rybakina played within herself, for the most part, repeatedly jamming Raducanu with heavy, deep returns and getting her opponent on the back foot straight away. The 22-year-old’s finest passage of play was the start of the second set: rattling off the first seven points, and 12 of the first 15, tightened her grip on the match and shut off any route for a Raducanu comeback.
“My serve is a weapon, so I’m always working on it and trying to find some variety. For sure, it’s my game to play aggressive and my serve is helping a lot,” said Rybakina in the on-court interview.
Rybakina will now face former World No 4, Caroline Garcia, in the second-round clash. Garcia enjoyed her first Top 25 victory in over a year after defeating Jessica Pegula 6-4, 7-6(3). Her last win over a Top-25 player was her defeat of Elise Mertens in the third round of Roland Garros 2020.
Pegula, who reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open last year, is still looking for her first win of 2022 after also losing her opener at Melbourne Summer Set 2 last week to Irina-Camelia Begu.