Emma Raducanu delivers timely reminder of how much fun she can be to watch

Raducanu blasts past Bouzkova to win Abu Dhabi opener
Emma Raducanu was too strong for Marie Bouzkova - Getty Images/Francois Nel

If you were wondering what all the fuss was about, Emma Raducanu provided a timely reminder. Her 6-4, 6-1 victory over world No 36 Marie Bouzkova felt like the closest thing we have seen – in terms of fearless shotmaking – to her US Open miracle.

Since that New York breakthrough, Raducanu’s journey has taken in more snakes than ladders. Injuries, unstable coaching arrangements, technical rejigs: it was as if a series of sinkholes kept opening up around her. Some of us may have forgotten, amid the growing pains, how much fun she can be to watch.

Happily, anyone following the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open would have been reminded of Raducanu’s original virtues: clean ball-striking, silky movement and a terrific tennis IQ.

The match did not get off to the most auspicious start for Raducanu, as she walloped a laser-like forehand on the opening point and came dashing forward, only to stumble and dump her volley into the net.

Over the next 82 minutes, however, she would improve dramatically, maintaining the ambition and intensity of her groundstrokes while gradually cutting out the silly errors that marred the opening exchanges.

Raducanu looked stressed early on, making gestures of frustration to her childhood coach Nick Cavaday. But she did not stop trying to force the pace against her game but limited opponent.

Trailing 2-4 after 25 minutes, she suddenly found her first serve, and from then on she was utterly dominant. In a hot streak that recalled her New York best, she won 10 of the next 11 games and left Bouzkova bemused.

“In the beginning I was just adjusting to the speed of the court,” Raducanu told on-court interviewer Monica Puig. “It was pretty quick and a lot more still than it had been for the week, because it had been very windy, so it was a different tempo.

“Marie is a really tough opponent,” she added. “I knew going in that I was going to have to play so many balls, and I think in the beginning I was missing a few of the finishing shots but I cleaned that up, so I’m very happy about that.”

The stats show how much Raducanu improved over the course of the match – and how powerless Bouzkova became. Raducanu’s tallies of clean winners were roughly equal (12 and 11) over the two sets, but her unforced-error count dropped from 13 to just three as she began to relax into the flow of her own game.

With Bouzkova increasingly struggling to win points, let alone games, this match was never going to extend to three sets – and a good thing too. Tending to fade in long contests, Raducanu wins only 40 per cent of deciders. (At the 2021 US Open, you may remember, she never had to play one.)

Unusual in its freedom, this was Raducanu’s first win over top-100 opposition since she overcame Beatriz Haddad Maia in Indian Wells last March. But it wasn’t the result that made an impression so much as the swagger. Raducanu played as if she believed completely in her ability, which has not always been the case over the past couple of seasons. The decision to reunite with Cavaday, who cheered her on from the sidelines, is looking well-judged.

The next round – which Raducanu will probably play on Wednesday – is an intriguing one. Her opponent is the second seed Ons Jabeur, whose Arab ancestry makes her the nearest thing the Middle-East has to a homegrown tennis star, even though she actually hails from Tunisia.

Jabeur received a first-round bye and thus has only scored one victory this season, which came against world No 150 Yuliia Starodubtseva at the Australian Open. In her second round in Melbourne, Jabeur was utterly bamboozled by 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva, and tallied only two games. In truth, she has been struggling for form ever since she laid an egg – to use John McEnroe’s vivid term for a disastrous underperformance – in last summer’s Wimbledon final.

“I really like Ons,” said Raducanu after the Bouzkova win. “She’s someone who has kind of taken me under her wing as I’ve been new to the tour. I’m really looking forward to it because a lot of people were saying to me ‘Ons, Ons, Ons,’ and I was like, ‘I’m playing Marie, who’s ranked like 30 in the world. So that’s not an easy match.’ But yeah, I’m really pleased to have put myself in this situation. And yeah, I’m going out with nothing to lose against her.”

Raducanu vs Bouzkova: As it happened . . .

07:04 PM GMT

Next up for Raducanu...

... is Ons Jabeur on Wednesday. That will be a big test for Raducanu but she is capable of winning that for sure.

Emma Raducanu blasts past Marie Bouzkova to win Abu Dhabi opener
Emma Raducanu returns the ball to Marie Bouzkova - AP/Kamran Jebreili

07:01 PM GMT

Social media reaction

06:55 PM GMT

WATCH: Match point for Raducanu

06:49 PM GMT

Raducanu* 6-4, 6-1 Bouzkova

Bouzkova is a forlorn figure out there. She’s had no answer to Raducanu’s tennis and is becoming increasingly frustrated.

A forehand into the net by Bouzkova makes it 0-30. Credit to Bouzkova, she mixes things up and comes to the net where she is very comfortable and puts away a forehand volley, 30-30.

Another foray into the net for Bouzkova but this time Raducanu reads it and digs out a backhand pass to the feet of Bouzkova, who can’t get the ball back over. Match point.

GAME SET MATCH RADUCANU! Deep return by Raducanu, Bouzkova scrambling again and she nets.

06:43 PM GMT

Raducanu* 6-4, 5-1 Bouzkova

Does Bouzkova have anything left to hit back with? She’s been outplayed in the last 30 minutes by a free-flowing Raducanu.

Raducanu pushes Bouzkova wide to open the court and finishes with a forehand winner, 30-15. This is wonderful from Raducanu. She ends the game in style, once again pulling Bouzkova off the court and finishing with a drive forehand winner.

06:42 PM GMT


That last Raducanu hold was scorchio! Three gorgeous winners and an unreturned serve. And then two more dominant forehand winners to set up a sixth break (plus one lucky shank that crept under Bouzkova’s racket). Raducanu holds a commanding lead for what would be her first top-100 victory since last March.

06:38 PM GMT

Raducanu* 6-4, 4-1 Bouzkova

Raducanu gets the nod of approval from her coach after a forehand down the line, deuce. Bouzkova can’t get up to a short Raducanu forehand and the Briton earns another chance to break.

Raducanu stays patient, but Bouzkova loses her composure and sends a forehand long. Double break for Raducanu secured.

Emma Raducanu vs Marie Bouzkova live
Emma Raducanu vs Marie Bouzkova live

06:33 PM GMT

Raducanu 6-4, 3-1 Bouzkova*

Brilliant from Raducanu to reach a Bouzkova drop shot and flick a forehand down the line which lands just inside the baseline, 15-0.

Raducanu is flowing now, back-to-back forehand winners to finish the game and consolidate the break.

06:28 PM GMT

Raducanu* 6-4, 2-1 Bouzkova

Break point Raducanu after Bouzkova slices a backhand into the tramlines. Raducanu drills a return winner and Bouzkova barely moves.

Raducanu breaks.

06:27 PM GMT


The Raducanu serve has switched on, after that run of six breaks in a row on both sides of the net. She’s sliding it nicely into the Bouzkova forehand, and the gap in quality between the two Czech wings is noticeable.

06:24 PM GMT

Raducanu 6-4, 1-1 Bouzkova*

Despite not breaking Bouzkova in the previous game, Raducanu is full of confidence and her serve is allowing her to hold easily now.

Raducanu holds to 15 and will set about trying to get after Bouzkova again.

06:21 PM GMT

Second set: Raducanu* 6-4, 0-1 Bouzkova

Raducanu means business. There’s been no let up in her intensity. She is seeing the ball really well and dragging her opponent side to side.

Another forehand winner gives Raducanu a break point at 30-40. Bouzkova keeps her nerve and puts away a drive backhand winner, deuce.

Credit to Bouzkova as she completes a gutsy hold and ends a run of service breaks on her serve.

06:13 PM GMT

Raducanu 6-4 Bouzkova*

Raducanu brings up three set points. She squanders the first with a forehand into the tramlines but she finishes the set with a crushing forehand into the corner and Bouzkova nets a forehand.

Really impressive stuff from the Briton.

06:12 PM GMT


Been an entertaining match so far, Raducanu looking to be aggressive and going after her groundstrokes, while Bouzkova is much better at the net. The Bouzkova forehand collapsed a bit in the 4-4 game, giving Raducanu the chance to serve for the set.

06:09 PM GMT

Raducanu* 5-4 Bouzkova

Great return by Raducanu and she forces Bouzkova to go long with a forehand, 0-30. Bouzkova forehand into the net, two break points. Good patient play by Raducanu. Wild forehand by Bouzkova and Raducanu breaks and will serve for the set. Superb recovery.

And in answer to my question in the previous post, yes, she can.

06:06 PM GMT

Raducanu 4-4 Bouzkova*

Raducanu gets a chance to find hold serve as she moves to 40-15. Bouzkova keeps herself in the game with a volley winner.

But Raducanu finally gets over the line when Bouzkova’s backhand goes long. Can Raducanu now break again?

06:00 PM GMT

Raducanu* 3-4 Bouzkova

Back comes Raducanu as she hits a world-class cross-court backhand winner, 0-30. Great disguise by Raducanu with a drop shot and Bouzkova barely moves for it, 0-40.

Another Raducanu drop shot, Bouzkova at full stretch to reach it but can only flick the ball into the tramlines.

Raducanu breaks back again. Can she finally hold serve? She’s been the better player so far.

05:58 PM GMT

Raducanu 2-4 Bouzkova*

Forehand lets Raducanu down again as she nets when in control of the point, 30-30. Wild backhand from Raducanu and Bouzkova has break point again.

Bouzkova return clips the net, Raducanu is forced to scramble and slice a ball deep but Bouzkova keeps her nerve and lifts a lob over Raducanu’s head to break serve.

Raducanu is yet to hold serve in this match.

05:52 PM GMT

Raducanu* 2-3 Bouzkova

Conditions in Abu Dhabi look heavy and the ball is not zipping off the surface. Both players having to work extra hard to break through the defenses of their opponent.

Special shot by Raducanu as she changes direction expertly and nails a backhand down the line winner, 0-30. Brilliant from Raducanu as she seizes the initiative and finishes with a drive forehand winner. Three break points.

Mis-hit return by Raducanu but Bouzkova whips a forehand into the tramlines. Four breaks of serve in a row.

05:48 PM GMT

Raducanu 1-3 Bouzkova*

As always for Raducanu, first serves in play sets the tone for the match for her. A double fault makes it 15-30.

Calmly done by Raducanu to drag Bouzkova to the net with a drop shot then place a backhand down the line into the open court, 30-30.

Lack of first serves hurting Raducanu here, not able to get any cheap points. And she gives Bouzkova a break point after a backhand into the net.

Forehand into the net by Raducanu and Bouzkova breaks again.

05:40 PM GMT

Raducanu* 1-2 Bouzkova

Bouzkova has five WTA titles to her name and is also an accomplished doubles player. She won’t be afraid to come forward and end points quickly.

Vintage Raducanu as she drills a backhand down the line for a winner. She then sets up a break back point with a forehand winner which just catches the sideline.

Longest rally of the match. Raducanu takes charge, forcing Bouzkova onto the backfoot. Raducanu gets a short defensive ball but puts her forehand long. She can’t believe it.

Good stuff again from Raducanu as she finishes the point with an overhead winner. Break point. Raducanu breaks back.

Raducanu continues to dominate from the baseline, Bouzkova can’t live with her and the Czech’s forehand goes into the tramlines. Good response by Raducanu.

05:33 PM GMT

Raducanu 1-1 Bouzkova*

It’s a high-quality draw in Abu Dhabi and it means this will be a tough test for Raducanu. She slips to 15-30 when she puts a forehand into the tramlines.

And then gives Bouzkova a break point when she pushes a backhand long. Raducanu goes just long with a forehand and she is broken at the very first attempt.

05:29 PM GMT

First set: Emma Raducanu* 0-1 Marie Bouzkova

Interesting start by Raducanu. She’s looking to be aggressive early on and apply pressure to Bouzkova’s serve.

Bouzkova closes out the game with an overhead winner.

05:23 PM GMT

Here we go!

Much later than scheduled, Raducanu and Bouzkova are on court for their first-ever meeting.

Play to begin very shortly in front of a sparse crowd. Bouzkova won the toss and will serve first.

05:20 PM GMT

Abu Dhabi points and prize money

First round: 1 point - $9,820
Round of 16: 60 points - $13,590
Quarter-finals: 108 points - $24,910
Semi-finals: 195 points - $51,205
Runner-up: 325 points - $87,665
Winner: 500 points - $142,000

05:14 PM GMT

Raducanu on her relationship with coach Nick Cavaday

I’m really enjoying it. I’ve known him since I was young, so it’s nice to have that familiarity sense. And then he took a break, he went to go work at the academies and I feel like coming back with him is a really nice feeling.

We work pretty well together.

Via Arab News

05:03 PM GMT

Raducanu in Abu Dhabi action

Good afternoon and welcome to coverage of Emma Raducanu’s opening round match at the Abu Dhabi Open.

The British star returns to action after her second round exit at the Australian Open last month. Illness hit Raducanu at an inopportune moment in Melbourne after fighting back to level her match against Wang Yafan. In the final set, Raducanu was unable to maintain her level and her Chinese opponent held on to book a place in the third round.

Nevertheless, Raducanu was satisfied with her performances, which came after eight months on the sidelines, and believes patience is required to regain her form.

“I’m still finding my feet on the match court, I’m not fully there but that will come with time,” said Raducanu. “I’m very patient and very grateful to enjoy what I’m doing.

“I’m just trying to improve my game because I’m not the finished product, far from it. I feel like now is the time to start because I’ve had some illness and injuries over the couple of years since [winning the US Open], so I’m looking forward to working on my game, improving my level and the results will take care of themselves.”

Raducanu’s opponent today is Czech world No 36 Marie Bouzkova, who crashed out in the first round of the Australian Open.

It will be a stiff test of Raducanu’s form after a long layoff but she is aware of needing to bring the level she’s showing on the practice court to the match court.

“For me, success would be seeing my level improving in practice first and then in matches,” Raducanu said. “I know that when my level will be there, putting it into a match will take some time to apply. But I know that seeing the level increase, that results will follow.

“Also, I would love to win a title of any grade.”

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