After days of more talk following her all around the grounds of Madrid, this time about the merits of her unusual perspective to coaching in light of her decision to part ways with her coach Torben Beltz after five months, Emma Raducanu’s clay-court education resumed with an excellent win on her Madrid Open debut.
Having trailed 2-5 in the opening set while twice standing one point away from relinquishing it, Raducanu showcased her adaptability and mental fortitude as she methodically turned the match on her head to defeat Tereza Martincova 7-6, 6-0 and reach the second round.
The match-up was a second meeting between the pair this month, with Raducanu already demonstrating her ability to play the big points best as she ground through a 7-5, 7-5 win against Martincova in her first professional match on clay at the Billie Jean King Cup.
But while the altitude of Madrid that makes the ball fly and the conditions faster is a better fit for Raducanu, as were they for Martincova who has played best on faster surfaces. The Czech served extremely well and imposed consistent pressure on Raducanu with her forehand and played an extremely clean opening set.
As in Prague however, Raducanu produced her best tennis in the tightest moments and she completely changed her approach. Not only did she begin to load up her shots with more topspin, adding margin into her game, moving further behind and eliciting errors from an increasingly refusing to miss, she also truly embraced the surface beneath her with her method of attack.
Having started the match attacking as if on a hard court, Raducanu began to drag Martincova off the court with width. In the attritional rallies that followed, Raducanu continually outmaneuvered Martincova, her greater athleticism so often the difference after so many strokes.
Across the net, all opposition soon crumbled. After saving the set points, leveling the opening set at 5-5 and then harnessing her momentum into an excellent tiebreak, Raducanu ran with the match, winning 10 of the last 11 games to seal another victory.
Such a thoughtful performance further underlined why Raducanu is so confident in her ability to read and understand the game, and why she doesn’t think she needs a prominent coach to guide her at all times. It also showed how she may be able to adapt to the clay with more experience in the future. She will face Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, a 19-year-old fellow she grew up playing against as a junior.
In the men’s Madrid Open draw, which begins on Sunday, Andy Murray has been dealt a fascinating first round draw against former US Open champion Dominic Thiem. While Thiem and Murray once faced each other as top 10 players, both are a long way from those heights now.
Murray is a surprise wildcard entering Madrid after reversing his decision to skip the entire clay court season in order to preserve his body for the grass court season. Thiem, meanwhile, continues his comeback after a disastrous year stemming from a serious wrist injury then numerous setbacks. He is yet to win a match in his three tournaments back.
Almost a year on from her well-publicized withdrawal from the French Open, Naomi Osaka returned to European clay courts with a promising victory as she recovered from a break down to comfortably defeat Anastasia Potapova 6-3, 6-1.