US Open 2021: Emma Raducanu through to R3, defeats Zhang Shuai in straight sets

US Open 2021: Emma Raducanu through to R3, defeats Zhang Shuai in straight sets. She is yet to lose a set at the fourth grand slam
US Open 2021: Emma Raducanu through to R3, defeats Zhang Shuai in straight sets. She is yet to lose a set at the fourth grand slam

US Open 2021: Emma Raducanu through to R3 Although American fans are just getting to know 18-year-old Emma Raducanu, she earned fans across the pond when she made it to the fourth round at Wimbledon this year. The Brit’s grass-court run boosted her ranking—from 338 to 150—and, seemingly, her confidence. As a US Open qualifier, Raducanu dismissed her first-round opponent, Stefanie Voegele, 6-2, 6-3—after having declined to drop a set to get into the Main Draw.

On the other side of the net for the Round 2 match: China’s Shuai Zhang, ranked 49, who also posted a straight-sets win over her Round 1 opponent, the American teenager Hailey Baptiste, 6-3, 6-4.

And although the Chinese player’s rank is more than 100 points higher than the teen’s, Raducanu had the edge from the beginning, grabbing a 4-1 lead before the match was 20 minutes old. Zhang was never able to get into the match in any real way—and Raducanu took it, 6-2, 6-4.

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US Open 2021: Emma Raducanu through to R3, defeats Zhang Shuai in straight sets

Zhang was shaky from the start, opening the match by dropping her first service game at love. A strong doubles player who excels at the net, Zhang seemed pinned to the baseline by Raducanu’s powerful groundstrokes and was seldom able to switch from defense to offense. Meanwhile, the Brit played a nearly flawless game, closing out the first set in just 31 minutes, 6-2.

You’d be forgiven if you wondered whether the start of set two was actually a taped replay of set one. Again, Zhang kicked it off by dropping serve. Again, Raducanu made quick work of her own service games, favoring placement over power and throwing down just one ace—but zero double faults—to go up 4-0.

But soon after that the teen faltered, facing her first break point at 4-1. Zhang was the steady one, moving Raducanu from side to side to get one break back and, finally, hold her own serve. Serving at 4-3, Raducanu regained her poise, winning at love and ultimately taking the set, 6-4, and the match—converting on her first match point opportunity.

WHAT IT MEANS: The road ahead is not an easy one. Should Raducanu advance to fourth-round play, she’ll likely collide with Ashley Barty. Playing concurrently, the No. 1 seed ended a different teenager’s US Open run, beating 18-year-old Clara Tauson, 6-1, 7-5.

MATCH POINT: Zhang will play on, teaming up with Samantha Stosur for a run at the 2021 US Open women’s doubles title. The No. 14 pair here were victorious at this summer’s Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.

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