Emma Raducanu is the US Open champion, she has reached the second week of Wimbledon and her name is already known across the world. And yet, in front of only a smattering of tournament staff in Cluj‑Napoca’s BTarena, the 18‑year‑old Briton realised two of the many elementary achievements that she had not yet attained: she played three sets in a tour-level match for the first time, and she picked up her first victory at a WTA tournament.
As she stood on the brink of defeat, Raducanu shrugged off errors and mounting frustration before elevating her level in the pivotal moments to defeat Polona Hercog of Slovenia 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. It is Raducanu’s first win since her title triumph in New York and she will face the home favourite Ana Bogdan in the second round of the Transylvania Open.
Afterwards, Raducanu referred to victory as a “huge win” and said that the prospect of securing her first WTA win played on her mind. “I think the key was to just try and stay mentally composed,” she said. “And I knew I wasn’t playing very well. So I just needed to keep going one point at a time, and I thought that if I kept giving myself the chance by holding serve, then maybe my tennis would improve and fall into place a bit better and it did. I’m really proud of myself for how I fought today.”
Hercog is the world No 124 while Raducanu is No 23, and the Slovenian much prefers clay courts. But for a long period their match on these slow courts reflected the fact Raducanu would have been the lower-ranked player before the US Open.
After Raducanu won an early break, Hercog’s quality came to the surface. She served extremely well, and she slowly began to find more forehands. Under pressure for the first time when leading 4-1, Raducanu lost five games in succession to meekly relinquish the first set.
Then Raducanu regrouped in the second set and served well. But as it reached its most important moments she faced a break point at both 4-4 and 5-5, the match hanging in the balance. On the first break point Raducanu stepped inside the baseline and nailed a winning crosscourt backhand. On the second, she produced a surprise skidding slice that died on the court and won her the point.
As opportunities continually evaded Hercog, the momentum slowly shifted. The pressure that Raducanu had withstood landed on the shoulders of Slovenian as she served to stay in the set at 5-6. On her third set point, Raducanu finally succeeded. As soon as Raducanu levelled the match she never looked back and she easily navigated the final set.
“All of the matches I’m playing, I’m just gaining in experience and I feel like that one today definitely counts a huge part to that,” she said. “Because when you’re not playing very well, you know you can do better. I think that I learned to just try and dig in and I can turn matches around.”
Then she produced an even more self-assured performance in her interview, brushing off the English questions and confidently responding in Romanian. “I feel extremely comfortable,” she said. “I feel like I’m playing at home, everyone has been so friendly and welcome, I really want to stay here. When I was in trouble I was thinking: ‘I don’t want to leave here,’ and that helped me through it .”
As the new No 1 British women’s player moved on from her breakthrough, so did the new No 1 British men’s player at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna, as Cameron Norrie defeated Marton Fucsovics 7-6(4), 6-1 in his first match since his title win at the BNP Paribas Open earlier this month. Norrie will next face Canada’s Félix Auger-Aliassime as he continues his attempts to qualify for the ATP Finals in Turin.