Emma Raducanu felt the love on her grand-slam return as she eased to victory over Shelby Rogers in the first round of the Australian Open.
Playing her first major tournament since a second-round exit to Coco Gauff here last year following surgery on both wrists and one ankle, the 21-year-old produced an assured performance to beat the American 6-3 6-2.
A packed arena showed how much interest there is in Raducanu’s comeback, and this was the sort of routine win she will hope to achieve regularly throughout the season.
Raducanu was cheered loudly throughout and, after clenching her fist and waving to all sides of the arena, she gave her towel to a fan she recognised who had supported her in New York.
“Going out there today I think I was a little bit taken aback by just the support straight when I walked out,” she said.
“I think it was better than any year I’ve really had before here. It was just amazing to see all the signs, hear the support. It was pretty incredible. So I was very happy to be able to play in those sort of circumstances again.
“I gave the towel to Mark. He was actually there every round at US Open. I didn’t know he was here. I just saw him in the crowd. He’s very vocal. It was actually great to have him there to get me through. He’s very passionate and enthusiastic. It was his birthday.”
Raducanu has spoken a lot over the past couple of weeks about seeing this comeback as a reset following her US Open triumph and the hoopla that followed.
It was somewhat ironic, therefore, that the draw pitted her against one of the players she beat during that incredible New York fortnight.
Rogers had knocked out Ashleigh Barty in the third round but was swatted aside by Raducanu, the British player dropping just three games.
Rogers has taken her own break from the sport having not played a match since Wimbledon because of knee surgery and an abdominal problem before she got married last month.
Ranked down at 161 as a consequence, this was one of the kinder openers Raducanu could have had, and Rogers clearly looked rusty.
Raducanu settled well, though, balancing the aggressive game she is determined to stick to with a need for consistency and she did not face a break point throughout the contest.
Raducanu moved well, served strongly and showed good touch at the net and on a couple of drop shots, while she saw the funny side of a delay to one service game in the second set while a ball girl tried to capture a bug that had landed on the court.
She is yet to reach the third round in Melbourne but looks to have a good chance ahead of a second-round clash with China’s Wang Yafan on Thursday.
Whether or not Raducanu can find a way through that one, she is simply enjoying being able to play pain free.
“I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever get to this stage,” she said. “I had pain for so long. I was playing since before the US swing in 2022 all the way before surgery.
“I think this year and now there’s just a lot more calm. I think I’m more level-headed. I think things around me have settled. I do feel better, and there’s just less highs and lows around. It’s just more of an equilibrium.
“I think what I realised is the difference between me potentially losing first round or doing really well at a tournament is honestly really, really slim. It’s just in the way that I move, in the way that I do things physically.
“I think just not being so drastic, because I know it’s not far away at all, and I know, the more I practise consistently, it will come.”
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