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Emma Raducanu retaliates to sink Linda Noskova at Roland-Garros | French Open 2022

Over the past 11 months, as she made her first trip to the WTA Tour, every time Emma Raducanu stepped onto a tennis court, she had to fight against her opponents’ greater experience as well as the quality of their games. Her sparse competitive record means that even opponents the same age as her have taken to the field much more mentally and physically prepared for the fight ahead.

But on a wet and rainy evening on the Simonne-Mathieu court, Raducanu faced a completely different scenario. For the first time in her career at the highest level, even on her Roland-Garros debut, she was both the oldest and most experienced player on the court.

As she faced a shot of precocity in 17-year-old Czech Linda Noskova, a debutant in Grand Slam qualifying just a week ago who immediately won three rounds to reach her first main draw, Raducanu dug deep to hold her back, recovering from a set and crumble to reach the second round in Paris with a 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-1 victory in two hours and 37 minutes.

“It was an absolute battle. I have to say Linda is playing amazing tennis and she really came out shooting,” Raducanu said. “As soon as I lowered my ball speed, she was all over me and killed me at the end of the first set.”

Despite breaking serve early in that opening set, Raducanu was too passive early on, opting to disrupt Noskova with hearty looping balls and extended points rather than imposing from inside the baseline.

Noskova, meanwhile, knew exactly what she wanted to do in the biggest moment of her young career so far: attacking. She took the ball boldly early with perfect timing, smothered all short balls and whenever an opportunity to take her favorite backhand down the line opened up, Noskova took it without a doubt. Both in style and daring, she was not so different from last year’s fearless Raducanu before the blessing and burden of being a Grand Slam champion.

As the first set progressed, Noskova’s confidence grew and it culminated in a stunning tiebreaker triumph. She continued to shine in the second set, breaking serve with a perfect return game to go ahead 4-3.

As the match reached its most crucial moments, Raducanu slowly began to move closer to the baseline, taking the ball early and responding to Noskova’s fire with some of his own. Under pressure from Raducanu for the first time, Noskova offered more errors. The gritty set ended with a touch of magic as Raducanu ripped it off with a soft dropshot winner.

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    With the momentum on his side and Noskova’s high-octane attack laced with much more frequent errors, Raducanu moved quickly through the third set and second round. Even though Raducanu was heavily favored to win, she showed her toughness in addition to her durability after so many recent ailments.

    “I knew if I had a really tough time in the second set it could get to him,” Raducanu said. “And I think in the third set I was definitely able to keep pushing. Eventually, I became more and more dominant. I was quite happy.

    “Physically, I think I was really good there. I lasted the whole three sets. I was really good. I also thought I was going to surpass her.

    After a day of rest, Raducanu will face world No. 47 Aliaksandra Sasnovich for a spot in the third round.

    Earlier on Monday, defending champion Barbora Krejcikova was knocked out in the first round by French teenager, Diane Parry, losing 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 after leading 2-0 in the second set.

    Krejcikova, the second seed, was playing her first game since February after suffering an elbow injury.

    “I think I just broke down physically, and it was difficult because I didn’t play the games,” Krejcikova said. “Usually games are different from training, and I tried to prepare as best I could. But yes, I collapsed.

    Hazel J. Edmonds

    The author Hazel J. Edmonds