Raducanu pinpoints possible turning point after winning first match on clay

Emma Raducanu hopes victory in her first ever professional match on a clay court can help to put an end to her disappointing 2022 form.

The teenager has the unenviable task of learning her trade while fully in the public eye. Her shock US Open victory last September came before she was a regular tour player, and so her struggle for form since has been, at the very least understandable.

Raducanu completed another first on Friday as she played a professional match on a clay court for the very first time. Doing so against a capable opponent in Tereza Martincova a few minutes after team-mate Harriet Dart had been blown away added even more pressure, but it was a challenge she proved to be very much up for.

The 19-year-old showed all the resilience, determination and skill she needed to win 7-5, 7-5. The result saw Great Britain level the scores at 1-1 against the Czech Republic team as they fight for an automatic place at the Billie Jean King Cup finals later this year.

As well as being the result her country needed, it was also a huge personal victory. Raducanu had lost five of her seven singles matches this season before taking to the court on Friday, struggling with niggling injuries while also admitting that she is not as fit as she needs to be.

"I've [been] playing really good tennis for a set, maybe a set and a half, then my energy dips," she said as she assessed her own performance. "And then I find myself in an absolute battle and it lets me down. But today I feel like it's another step in the right direction because I've managed to overcome that. So that does give me a lot of confidence."

World number 50 Martincova is the highest ranked player Raducanu has even managed to take a set off since the US Open. But she never truly looked like she was going to allow the Czech to inflict another defeat, as she adapted with the windy conditions on an unfamiliar surface to get the job done.

"This one means so much to me because it is my first match in the Billie Jean King Cup," the teenager added. "To represent my team and come out here for my first professional match on a clay court is really amazing. We are still in this battle. It's all to play for tomorrow."

The Czechs remain heavy favourites to win, and the Brits' chances of an upset lay largely upon Raducanu recording back-to-back victories when she faces an even tougher challenge in the form of world No.32 Marketa Vondrousova. The 2019 French Open finalist tore Dart apart on Friday, showing the damage she can do on clay when at her best.

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