Emma Raducanu shows fighting spirit to overcome teenage starlet Linda Noskova at the French Open

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French Open 2022 live Emma Raducanu Linda Noskova score - REUTERS
French Open 2022 live Emma Raducanu Linda Noskova score - REUTERS

Emma Raducanu celebrated her French Open debut with a mind-over-matter victory, in which she came back from a set down against an even younger opponent: fresh-faced 17-year-old Czech Linda Noskova.

Raducanu won’t be scaring anyone with her strokeplay in this match, which was scrappy and underpowered. But tennis is about more than just hitting the ball sweetly. In front of a noisy capacity crowd on Court Simonne Mathieu, her heart and will shone through.

“It was an absolute battle,” said Raducanu after closing out her 6-7, 7-5, 6-1 victory with a forehand winner. “Linda is playing some amazing tennis and she really came out there firing.

“As soon as I dropped my ball speed, she was all over me and killing me from the end of the first set. So, it was definitely really challenging in the second set to hold on and keep holding my serve and break back a couple of times. I am really proud of the way I fought.”

At the end of the match, Raducanu high-fived a supporter at courtside who seems to have been her lucky charm. As she explained later, he was present for every one of her US Open victories last year, but hadn’t been spotted since last year’s Indian Wells in October. “To see him here was really something,” she said.

Her relief was palpable after a real arm wrestle in the furthest corner of Roland Garros: the elegant greenhouse court, unveiled in 2019, which stands amid four botanical gardens.

The changeable weather – which veered from heavy drizzle to blue skies – matched the unpredictable course of the drama. It was one of those matches where almost every point felt like it had the capacity to decide the outcome, and the French fans were enraptured.

“The French Open gives me similar vibes to the US Open just because of the crowd and just how involved they get,” said Raducanu. “It's a complete contrast to Wimbledon where it's dead silent. You can actually hear a pin drop before you serve. It's incredible.

“It definitely took some getting used to, but when I went out there today, I was honestly just enjoying it, and I don't take anything personally, really. You can actually say anything to me. So when I was on the court and you get people shouting things it didn't really affect me at all.”

Despite the fact that home favourite Benoit Paire was due on next, the crowd revelled in this contest between two young women with special gifts.

In women’s tennis, you don’t get to be the Next Big Thing for long. It often feels as if a new teenage prodigy arrives every week, some of them so young that they could almost be delivered by stork.

This was Noskova’s first appearance outside the juniors at a slam, and she proved herself to be one hell of a prospect. Her technique looks flawless, with a backhand down the line that was as smooth as tiramisu.

As Raducanu explained “She's pretty young, but she hits the ball extremely hard. She's new to the tour, but in a way, that sort of helps. When you are brand new you're just swinging, you're free, and I think she definitely was doing that.”

In slow, heavy conditions, Noskova started out by dominating with her sheer weight of shot, accumulating a massive 48 winners in the match. Raducanu felt as if she was clinging on by her fingernails, moving the ball from side to side in the hope that her apparently nerveless opponent might eventually miss one of her giant haymakers.

Raducanu and Linda Noskova clasp hands at the net at the end of the match - GETTY IMAGES
Raducanu and Linda Noskova clasp hands at the net at the end of the match - GETTY IMAGES

Having lost the first set on a tie-break – in which Noskova claimed six of her seven points with clean winners – Raducanu was twice a break down in the second.

At 6-7, 4-4, she was only six points from a defeat which would have looked embarrassing on paper against the world No 184. Even if Noskova, last year’s junior champion here, was playing at a vastly higher standard than that.

But Raducanu chiselled out the second set through sheer doggedness, relying on a few nerves surfacing under the smooth skin of her young opponent. Now Noskova started to lose her previously impeccable timing. Her laser-like backhand down the line began to fly long or wide, instead of landing unerringly in the corner.

“I knew if I got through some really tough moments in the second set, it might get to her,” said Raducanu afterwards. “And I think in the third set I definitely was able to kind of keep pushing, keep pushing. Eventually I was just dominating more and more.”

It was the first time on the tour that Raducanu has faced a player even younger than herself. Even though she is still on her own first full circuit, she played so cannily that she could have been a senior pro, taking advantage of her opponent’s naivety.  “I lasted the full three sets,” she said, “and I was thinking: ‘I’m going to out-compete her.’”

The upshot was that Raducanu dashed through the deciding set in a ruthless 32 minutes. Her reward will be a second-round meeting with Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus – the same player who beat her last October in Indian Wells, in what was her first outing after the US Open title.

It’s probably stretching things to suggest – as Raducanu did in April – that clay will end up being her best surface. She is still at her best in faster, more responsive conditions.

But this was still an encouraging start to her senior career in Paris, where she had only ever won one match at junior level. By the time she finishes, she will probably know Roland Garros like the back of her hand.

Emma Raducanu vs Linda Noskova, as it happened:

07:07 PM

That's all folks

Thanks for joining us. Thankfully the rain stayed away and we were able to see a top-quality match between two players who could meet many times in the future.

Stay with Telegraph Sport for news, analysis and comment throughout the tournament in Paris.

06:57 PM

More from Raducanu

It was an incredible atmosphere and I am sorry that the match took so long, I know you want to see Benoit [Paire].

I have no expectations of myself [for the rest of the tournament]. I'm really happy to be competing here after Rome and I'm looking forward to try and stay as long as possible.

06:46 PM

Raducanu reacts

She [Linda Noskova] really came out there firing and as soon as I dropped my ball speed she was all over me.

It was really challenging in the second set - I'm really proud of how I fought but all props to Linda.

06:36 PM

Job done for Raducanu

06:29 PM

Raducanu* 6-7, 7-5, 6-1 Noskova (*denotes server)

Raducanu forehand winner, 15-0. Raducanu ace, 30-0. Raducanu nets a backhand, 30-15. Noskova nets an overhead, two match points.

GAME>SET>MATCH RADUCANU. The British No 1 finishes with a forehand winner to seal a resilient and character building victory.

06:25 PM

Raducanu 6-7, 7-5, 5-1 Noskova* (*denotes server)

Raducanu's turn to drill a backhand down the line, 15-15. Noskova nets a backhand, 15-30. Two break points for Raducanu after a forehand winner, 15-40.

Noskova saves the first with a drop shot winner. But not the second as Noskova nets a forehand. Raducanu will serve for the match next.

06:21 PM

Raducanu* 6-7, 7-5, 4-1 Noskova (*denotes server)

Noskova backhand long, 15-15. Another backhand is called just long, 30-15. You can feel the tension.

Break point Noskova after Raducanu mis-hits a forehand. Noskova forehand into the tramlines, deuce.

Wide Raducanu serve followed by a forehand winner by Raducanu to consolidate the break.

06:14 PM

Raducanu 6-7, 7-5, 3-1 Noskova* (*denotes server)

Raducanu reads Noskova's drop shot but puts her approach shot back at the Czech and the teenager lifts a lovely lob over the US Open champ, 40-15.

Aggressive play by Raducanu on back to back points and she pulls it back to deuce. Noskova backhand long, break point Raducanu.

Raducanu backhand long, huge chance squandered. Noskova backhand into the tramlines, second break point.

Raducanu backhand return winner to break. She leads in the deciding set.

06:08 PM

Raducanu* 6-7, 7-5, 2-1 Noskova (*denotes server)

Noskova backhand long, 30-30. Important point coming up.

Noskova goes for a big forehand down the middle but misjudges it, 40-30. Noskova's backhand had been frankly ridiculous today, she hits another winner down the line, deuce.

Raducanu has middle court forehand but Noskova reads it and pushes a backhand winner into the open court, great anticipation.

Crucial hold for Raducanu as Noskova's return drifts long.

06:00 PM

Raducanu 6-7, 7-5, 1-1 Noskova* (*denotes server)

After a rare love hold for Raducanu, Noskova looks to follow her as she gets to 40-0.

A forehand down the line by Noskova is called out but the umpire comes off his chair and overrules as the ball just catches the Raducanu's baseline.

05:57 PM

Third Set: Raducanu* 6-7, 7-5, 1-0 Noskova (*denotes server)

Confidence is flowing from Raducanu. She's hitting the ball cleaner, deeper and with more aggression at the moment.

She holds to love and clenches her fist towards her support box.

05:53 PM

Raducanu 6-7, 7-5 Noskova* (*denotes server)

Noskova puts back-to-back backhands into the net, 15-40. Two set points.

The Czech saves the first when Raducanu mistimes a forehand. And the second with what is becoming a trademark backhand winner down the line. So much pressure on that shot.

Huge error by Noskova as she puts a forehand into the tramlines, break point. Sensational drop volley winner by Noskova after a bruising rally.

Raducanu goes long with a backhand down the line but then responds with a forehand winner down the line.

Fourth set point Raducanu after Noskova puts a backhand wide. SET RADUCANU. What a time to bring out the drop shot, Noskova can't get it over the net and we are going three!

05:44 PM

Raducanu* 6-7, 6-5 Noskova (*denotes server)

Raducanu mis-hits a forehand long, 0-15. Noskova nets a backhand return, 15-15. Noskova overhead winner after bossing the baseline rally, 15-30.

Deep Raducanu forehand draws the error from Noskova, 30-30. Huge point coming up.

Noskova's backhand slice drifts just long, 40-30. Raducanu nets a backhand, deuce. So tense out there.

Booom! Raducanu cross court forehand winner. And she holds when Noskova's backhand return goes long.

05:39 PM

Raducanu 6-7, 5-5 Noskova* (*denotes server)

Noskova drop shot is just wide, a bit of tension in that shot, 0-15. Then a sixth double fault of the match, 0-30.

Raducanu forehand into the net, 15-30. Then a backhand return into the net, poor shot, 30-30.

Defensive Raducanu backhand drifts long, 40-30. Raducanu was two points from the set but instead we are level after she nets a backhand.

05:36 PM

Raducanu* 6-7, 5-4 Noskova (*denotes server)

Raducanu finds her first serve and Noskova nets a backhand, 30-15. Excellent forehand by Raducanu, one of her biggest of the match, 40-15.

And she holds when Noskova's return flies long. The Czech now needs to serve to stay in the set.

05:31 PM

Raducanu 6-7, 4-4 Noskova* (*denotes server)

Back to back errors by Noskova opens the door again for Raducanu. But she finds her first serve to pull it back to 30-30.

Noskova backhand into the net, break point Raducanu. Wild Noskova backhand flies out and we are level again.

Eight breaks of serve in this match so far.

05:27 PM

Raducanu* 6-7, 3-4 Noskova (*denotes server)

Huge cross court forehand winner by Noskova, 0-15. Then a backhand winner down the line, 0-30.

Noskova forehand return winner, 0-40. Noskova backhand winner. FOUR winners in a row to break. What a performance.

05:24 PM

Raducanu 6-7, 3-3 Noskova* (*denotes server)

Noskova forehand just wide, 0-15. Good second serve by Noskova and Raducanu nets. That was a missed opportunity.

Noskova gets down low and rifles another backhand down the line, 40-15. And Noskova holds when Raducanu's forehand return goes long.

05:20 PM

Raducanu* 6-7, 3-2 Noskova (*denotes server)

Noskova does it again with her backhand, drilling another winner down the line, 0-30.

Noskova comes forward and Raducanu knocks her off balance with a forehand then puts it away with another, 30-30. Raducanu double fault, bad time for it, break point Noskova.

Raducanu survives when Noskova's return flies long. Another missed Noskova return and Raducanu holds. Huge hold!

05:15 PM

Raducanu 6-7, 2-2 Noskova* (*denotes server)

Noskova is bossing things at the moment, playing some outstanding tennis. But saying that, she hits a fifth double fault, 30-30.

And Raducanu earns a break point after Noskova flicks a forehand long. Wild backhand by Noskova and Raducanu does break.

Strange game that one.

05:11 PM

Raducanu* 6-7, 1-2 Noskova (*denotes server)

Brilliant sliced forehand by Noskova catches out Raducanu, 0-15. Noskova goes *just* wide with a cross court forehand, 15-15. Raducanu tries to go down the line but gets it wrong, 15-30.

A rare wayward backhand by Noskova, 30-30. Wonderfully controlled drop shot by Noskova, 30-40. Break point!

Noskova drills another backhand winner up the line. Raducanu barely moved. What a shot. Big problems now for the British No 1.

05:07 PM

Raducanu 6-7, 1-1 Noskova* (*denotes server)

Great forehand return down the line by Raducanu, 30-15. But Noskova comes through to hold.

05:03 PM

Second Set: Raducanu* 6-7, 1-0 Noskova (*denotes server)

Raducanu's backhand is brilliant on its day but I'm not sure it is as good as Noskova on the evidence of today, tremendous ball striking by the teenager.

Noskova forehand winner, 30-30. The Czech goes for it again but misses, 40-30. Relief for Raducanu as she comes through after a Noskova return error.

04:55 PM

Raducanu 6-7 Noskova

Noskova double fault, her fourth of the match, 1-0. Noskova's forehand clips the line and Raducanu misses her shot, 1-1. Noskova backhand just long, 2-1. Noskova backhand winner down the line, 2-2. Noskova forehand long, 3-2. A short Raducanu forehand is punished by a Noskova forehand winner, 3-3.

Noskova forehand return long, 4-3. Noskova backhand winner down the line, 4-4. Noskova overhead winner, 4-5. Stunning Noskova forehand winner down the line, 4-6. Raducanu forehand into the net, 4-7.

04:48 PM

Raducanu* 6-6 Noskova (*denotes server)

Opportunity missed by Noskova as she puts a drive forehand long, 30-0. Well executed drop shot by Noskova beats Raducanu. Very well disguised.

Good, deep hitting from Raducanu and she wrong foots Noskova with a forehand winner. That was one of her best points of the match, 40-15.

Raducanu backhand winner to end the game, tiebreak time.

04:42 PM

Raducanu 5-6 Noskova* (*denotes server)

Another Noskova double fault, 15-15. She then pushes what should have been a straightforward volley wide, 30-30.

Great serve down the T and a putaway forehand by Noskova, 40-30. Noskova guarantees herself a tiebreak after Raducanu nets a backhand.

04:39 PM

Raducanu* 5-5 Noskova (*denotes server)

Raducanu finds her first serve again and it gives her two cheap points. But Noskova drills another backhand winner past Raducanu, 30-15.

Raducanu double fault, 40-30. Big sigh of relief for Raducanu as she holds when Noskova nets a forehand.

04:35 PM

Raducanu 4-5 Noskova* (*denotes server)

A couple of errors by Raducanu give Noskova some breathing space. Raducanu then puts a backhand return long, 40-0.

And the qualifier gets ahead for the first time with another backhand winner. Noskova has won 11 of the last 15 points.

04:32 PM

Raducanu* 4-4 Noskova (*denotes server)

The umpire says he won't force the players to play so they take a seat for now and hope the rain will reduce.

The match will resume on Raducanu's serve and she loses the opening point with a tame backhand into the net.

Good body serve by Raducanu draws the error by Noskova. Blistering backhand winner down the line by the Czech, 15-30. Noskova nets a drop shot, 30-30. Big point coming up.

Raducanu stays strong after a big return and puts away a forehand, 40-30. Noskova drags Raducanu wide and puts away a backhand winner in the open court.

Noskova steps into a high ball but nets a forehand, bad miss. But she gets a break point when Raducanu mis-hits a forehand.

Wonderful way for Noskova to break as she hangs in the point and drills another backhand winner down the line.

04:21 PM

Raducanu 4-3 Noskova* (*denotes server)

Noskova drop shot into the net, 0-30. The rain is getting heavier.

But Noskova hits a glorious forehand drive volley, 30-30. Noskova forehand winner, 40-30. Raducanu responds with one of her own off a Noskova second serve, deuce.

Noskova gets the hold when Raducanu clips the top of the net and drops out.

04:16 PM

Raducanu* 4-2 Noskova (*denotes server)

Some umbrellas are starting to go up with rain falling. Raducanu speaks with the umpire but play continues.

Raducanu with a wrong-footing forehand winner, 15-0. Noskova forehand into the net, 40-0.

Second serve ace and a big 'come on' from Raducanu.

04:12 PM

Raducanu 3-2 Noskova* (*denotes server)

Raducanu forehand winner, 0-30. Raducanu backhand winner, three break points.

Noskova saves the first with a forehand winner. Then the second with a good wide serve. A deep Raducanu return and Noskova shanks her shot wide. Another break of serve.

04:09 PM

Raducanu* 2-2 Noskova (*denotes server)

Excellent play at the net by Raducanu, showing good instincts and poise to put away the volley, 15-0.

Noskova return long, 40-0. Credit to Noskova as she keeps herself in the game with back to back winner, 40-30. Noskova goes after Raducanu's second serve and puts away an overhead winner. Good defensive lob by Noskova and Raducanu nets an overhead, break point.

Another Raducanu second serve for Noskova to go after and the Briton nets a backhand. Back on serve.

When Raducanu finds her first serve she dominates. When she doesn't, Noskova is going on the attack.

04:02 PM

Raducanu 2-1 Noskova* (*denotes server)

Another double fault by Noskova, 0-15. Noskova backhand long, 0-30. Three break points for Raducanu as she constructs the point expertly.

Noskova saves the first with a drop shot winner. Then the second when Raducanu puts a forehand return long.

And the third when Raducanu nets a tame backhand. Superb point by both players but Noskova finishes it with a deft drop shot winner. Booom! Raducanu drills a backhand return for a winner.

Noskova holds with a forehand winner. great recovery from a tough position.

03:56 PM

Raducanu* 2-0 Noskova (*denotes server)

Noskova is yet to really settle as she goes long with a forehand, 15-0. But she attacks Raducanu's second serve with a big backhand return.

Raducanu finds her first serve and Noskova can't get the ball back in play. And she consolidates the break when Noskova nets a backhand return.

03:53 PM

First Set: Emma Raducanu 1-0 Linda Noskova* (*denotes server)

Ideal start by Raducanu as she steps in and drills a backhand winner cross court, 0-15. Noskova nets a backhand to fall to 0-30 but she responds with a forehand winner, 15-30.

Deep and pacey forehand by Noskova draws the error from Raducanu. Noskova forehand into the tramlines, early break point chance for Raducanu.

Double fault Noskova gives Raducanu the best possible start.

03:50 PM

Here we go...

... lets hope the rain holds off!!

03:45 PM

Coin toss

Raducanu loses the first battle as Noskova wins the toss and opts to serve first.

03:43 PM

The players walk onto court

Nice ovation for Raducanu who is wearing ear buds and holding her iPhone.

I wonder what she's listening to?!

03:40 PM

Tricky test for Raducanu

Raducanu will start the match as favourite but she will be playing the junior French Open champion in Noskova.

03:12 PM

Good evening!

Hello and welcome to coverage of Emma Raducanu's opening match at the French Open. The British No 1 insists she is fit to mount a challenge after a disrupted clay court season due to a back problem.

The US Open champion retired during the second set of her opening match at the Italian Open in Rome last week against Bianca Andreescu, saying she was unable to move properly.

But she has been given the all clear to play in Paris and is gearing up for her senior debut at Roland Garros, where she is the 12th seed.

She told reporters: "I'm learning about my body, for sure, but I'm very happy to be continuing my preparations for the French Open and to be able to play this tournament and fortunately I didn't have to miss this grand slam.

"That is definitely a really positive thing, because I really look forward to these big moments and the big tournaments."

Asked if she could have been forced to miss the year's second grand slam, Raducanu said: "It was definitely thrown into question. But, at the end of the day, I'm just learning, feeling it out. I got the all clear to continue with preparations and see how things go.

"Last week after Rome I definitely had to slow down that week, but this week I have been training and luckily being able to practise all of the shots. It feels good to be able to move freely and just run around. It's quite fun. I have been preparing as normal the last few days."

Last month, Raducanu expressed her confidence that clay could be her best surface and she reiterated that belief.

"I think that when I said six weeks ago, and I still think this, that I could be a great clay-court player, (I was) looking forward, long, medium term, in a few years where I have definitely developed more robustness and I'm able to repeat the same shots over and over," she said.

"To be honest, I think I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would. Clay at the beginning kind of was written off, 'Oh, it's a clay court, just have a go'. But now I really believe that I can be good and faster than I thought it would be. I'm definitely looking forward for the coming clay-court seasons."