Australian Open: Emma Raducanu & Andy Murray start Melbourne bids

1 year ago 51
Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray in Australian Open practiceEmma Raducanu is seeded 17th at the Australian Open, while Andy Murray has been given a wildcard
Dates: 17-30 January Venue: Melbourne Park
Coverage: Daily radio commentaries on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra/BBC Sport website and app, with selected live text commentaries and match reports on the website and app

Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray lead the British contingent on Tuesday when six players try to navigate tricky Australian Open first-round matches.

Raducanu, 19, goes into the first Grand Slam since her US Open win and faces American Sloane Stephens on Margaret Court Arena at about 10:30 GMT.

Murray, 34, plays Georgian 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili from about 04:00.

Raducanu and Murray are joined in action by Dan Evans, Heather Watson, Harriet Dart and Liam Broady.

Qualifier Dart will be the first to play when she faces 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek, the seventh seed from Poland, on Rod Laver Arena at about 02:00 GMT.

Tuesday's order of play

Five-time finalist Murray, who was given a wildcard to play, returns to the John Cain Arena, where three years ago he feared he had played the final match of his career.

Watson and Evans should be playing about the same time as Murray with both scheduled third on their respective courts.

Watson faces Egypt's Mayar Sherif on court eight, while 24th seed Evans meets Belgium's David Goffin on court 13.

Broady, playing in the main draw for the first time after qualifying, plays home favourite Nick Kyrgios on Cain at about 08:00.

Cameron Norrie was the only Briton to play in Melbourne on Monday, but "didn't perform and didn't execute" in a heavy defeat by American rising star Sebastian Korda on day one.

Meanwhile, Russia's Daniil Medvedev - the leading men's seed after Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia - starts his tournament against Switzerland's Henri Laaksonen.

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How will Raducanu follow her US Open success?

Nobody predicted before the 2021 Australian Open that Raducanu would end the season as a major champion. And how the British teenager is going to fare in 2022 is equally difficult to guess.

What is for sure is it will be fascinating to see how Raducanu develops in her first full season on the WTA Tour.

Expectations should be realistic and the chances of her winning back-to-back Grand Slams with victory in Melbourne appear to be slim.

Such a feat would again defy the odds. Osaka is the only woman in the past 20 years to follow her first Grand Slam title by immediately winning the next one.

The Briton is ranked 18th in the world and, when she played for the first time in 2022 after contracting Covid last month, lost 6-0 6-1 to Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina in Sydney.

Raducanu has a very tough start in Melbourne, facing 2017 US Open champion Stephens.

"I'm going to go out there and enjoy the match," she said. "Just playing in this Grand Slam, I had to work so hard to be here.

"I feel like there's actually no pressure on me. I feel like I'm just happy to be here and have a swing."

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Murray makes poignant return to Melbourne

Three years ago at Melbourne Park, Murray caught everyone by surprise by tearfully announcing he feared his illustrious career was coming to an end.

Now the three-time Grand Slam champion makes a poignant return to the event after managing to restart his career, despite having a metal hip and being stalled by a host of subsequent niggling injuries.

Ranked 113th in the world, Murray remains confident of going deep into major tournaments once again.

Encouraging performances towards the end of 2021 reinforced his belief and he backed that up by reaching the Sydney final, although he was beaten on Saturday by Russian Aslan Karatsev.

"These are the matches and moments I want to create as much as possible," Murray, who beat Basilashvili in Sydney, told BBC Sport.

"It was a strong week for me and progress from where I've been. I had some good wins and I'll try to keep building from that."

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What about the other Brits?

Evans, 31, won the first ATP title of his career last season - at the Murray River Open in Melbourne - and continued his good form to reach a career-high ranking of 22nd.

This year has started successfully, too. Evans won all three of his singles matches at the ATP Cup and reached the semi-finals in Sydney.

Watson, 29, is the only other British woman with automatic entry by ranking, while 25-year-old Dart beat Australian wildcard Kimberly Birrell on Friday to come through qualifying.

Broady, 28, secured his place in the main draw for the first time with a comeback win against Russia's Roman Safiullin.

His reward is a match-up with home favourite Kyrgios, whose matches on Cain - known as the 'People's Court' because it is open to grounds pass holders - are always raucous affairs.

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