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Emma Raducanu’s main challengers for Australian Open glory after entry list confirmation

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EMMA RADUCANU is into the main-draw of a Grand Slam off her own ranking for the first time in her career, after winning the US Open as a qualifier.

Emma Raducanu has appeared on the player list for a Grand Slam as a direct entrant for the first time in her career. The world No 19 received a wildcard into Wimbledon earlier this year and needed to qualify for the US Open, where she then became the first qualifier in history to win a Major title. She will now be the 19th seed at the Australian Open, but will have a tough task in trying to win a second successive Grand Slam.

 

 

Raducanu completed something unprecedented in the sport when she became the first qualifier in history to win a Grand Slam at the US Open, while ranked world No 150.

It wasn’t her first taste of success at Major level either, as she had her Wimbledon wildcard upgraded from qualifying to the main-draw last minute and stormed to the second week in her Grand Slam debut as the world No 338.

Now, she will head to Australia as the 19th seed after gaining entry straight into the main-draw thanks to her ranking, and be the woman to beat as the most recent Grand Slam champion.

With Serena Williams out of the draw with injury, players will arguably be gunning for the chance to lift the title even more in the absence of the 23-time Major champion.

Express Sport takes a look at the top five challengers Raducanu could face in her path to more Grand Slam glory, in the absence of seven-time champion Williams.

Ash Barty
The world No 1 is a favourite for any tournament she enters, but will have the advantage of the home crowd on her side.

Barty won her second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon this year and has not played since the US Open, opting to return home to Australia after spending the season away on tour, so she will be well-rested and raring to go come January.

The Aussie will by vying to win her home Slam after already having French Open and Wimbledon titles to her name, and coming close with semi-final and quarter-final appearances in the last two editions, so will be the heavy favourite for the title and a tough opponent to overcome were Raducanu to face her.

Garbine Muguruza
Also a two-time Major champion with past glory at the French Open and Wimbledon, Muguruza ended her 2021 season as the WTA Finals champion, giving her good confidence and momentum going into the first Major of 2022.

The Spaniard also came close to a first Australian Open title in 2020, when she was a set up on Sofia Kenin in the final before the young American won 4-6 6-2 6-2, and made her stunning run to the final while unseeded after some poor results, beating two top-ten player en route.

With plenty of experience as a former world No 1 and multiple Grand Slam champion, and the boost of winning the prestigious year-end finals just last month, Muguruza will be a tough woman to beat at the season-opening Grand Slam.

Paula Badosa
Another Spanish woman who ended 2021 on a high, Badosa completed her own impressive rise this season and, while not as unprecedented as Raducanu’s she started the year at world No 70 and ended it at world No 8.

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The 24-year-old won the WTA 1000 title in Indian Wells, often regarded as the ‘fifth Grand Slam’, in October, which also ended up earning her a spot at the WTA Finals in Guadalajara.

After winning her first-ever titles including the highest-point tournament on the tour, reaching the WTA Finals and making her top ten debut, Badosa’s eyes will now be set on the Grand Slams.

She made her first quarter-final at this year’s French Open and will likely thrive in the warm outdoor hard-court conditions in Australia, with her aggressive game and big-serving set to be even more difficult for opponents to face Down Under.

Ons Jabeur
The popular Tunisian has enjoyed the best season of her career, though a theme of her year has also been narrowly missing out on some of the biggest achievements.

Jabeur’s season saw her make her top ten debut and become the first Arab woman to win a WTA Tour title in Birmingham, but she missed out on the chance to make her career-best showing at a Grand Slam when she lost her Wimbledon quarter-final to Aryna Sabalenka.

Later in the year, she reached her first WTA 1000 semi-final in Indian Wells but missed her chance to reach the final when she lost to Badosa, and later very narrowly missed out on a final spot at the year-end WTA Finals when Anett Kontaveit won two titles back-to-back at the end of the year to snatch the finals pot and deny the 27-year-old her debut at the year-end championships.

A much-loved player among fans and her fellow WTA colleagues, Jabeur has proven her ability to beat Grand Slam champions and top players at even the biggest tournaments, and her game full of variety will likely be something tricky for Raducanu to handle, with the 19-year-old still so early in her pro career with much less experience of different opponents.

Anett Kontaveit
The Estonian is another woman who enjoyed an incredible end to 2021, when she went on a 12-match winning streak and picked up titles in Moscow and Transylvania in the midst of her impressive run, just two of the four titles she picked up this season.

By defeating home hero and former world No 1 Simona Halep in the Transylvania Open final, Kontaveit also snatched the final place in the Guadalajara WTA Finals, where she continued her unbeaten streak right up until the final round-robin match, losing it to Muguruza.

Kontaveit had already advanced to the semi-finals at this stage and then went on to face Muguruza again in the biggest final of her career, losing in straight sets, but is one of the in-form players going into 2022.

The world No 7’s best showing at a Grand Slam came at the 2020 Australian Open, and she also has something of a unique edge of facing Raducanu, as the Estonian spent years working with Nigel Sears as her coach – Andy Murray’s father-in-law and renowned WTA coach who was working with Raducanu during her Wimbledon run this year – so may be accustomed to some of the tricks the Brit would have learned from Sears, and may well be more familiar with the world No 19 than other WTA players after spending time at London’s National Tennis Centre, where Raducanu also trains.

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Tennis Phenom Leylah Fernandez Shares Her Love For Soccer

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Leylah Fernandez had a stellar 2021 and bagged her first-ever trip to a Grand Slam final at the U.S. Open. In addition to her superb play at Flushing Meadows last September, Fernandez started the 2021 season off right.

 

 

In March 2021, she sailed through her first four matches at the Monterrey Open to reach the final there. In the final at the Monterrey Open, Fernandez dominated Swiss player Viktorija Golubic, 6–1, 6–4, which gave Fernandez her first-ever WTA career title at age 18. In defeating seven total competitors, Fernandez was also the youngest player in the main draw, and she marked the extraordinary feat of reaching the final without dropping a set.

Currently, the Canadian-born Fernandez is ranked No. 24 in the world. Just before the New Year, she was named the 2021 Canadian Press Athlete of the Year.

Yet, while Fernandez is squarely focused on continuing her ascent in the tennis world, she will tell you that picking up the tennis racket wasn’t her first foray into sports as a youngster.

“I started sports by playing soccer. It was my first sport and in some ways my first love,” Fernandez said, in a recent Zoom interview. “I remember watching (Canadian soccer legend) Christine Sinclair at a young age, and taking in her commitment and dedication, watching her as a player throughout the years.”

Fernandez adds that it was Sinclair’s devotion and work ethic—and perhaps Sinclair’s remarkable 188 in 30 games as a Canadian international– that helps inform Fernandez’s own approach to tennis now.

And of course, Fernandez says she was ecstatic when her home country took the Olympic gold medal in women’s soccer last summer in Tokyo.

“Seeing the Canadian women win the gold was heartwarming. When they finally won, I was jumping for joy, just like every other Canadian soccer fan.”

Leylah Fernandez had a stellar 2021 and bagged her first-ever trip to a Grand Slam final at the U.S. Open. In addition to her superb play at Flushing Meadows last September, Fernandez started the 2021 season off right.

In March 2021, she sailed through her first four matches at the Monterrey Open to reach the final there. In the final at the Monterrey Open, Fernandez dominated Swiss player Viktorija Golubic, 6–1, 6–4, which gave Fernandez her first-ever WTA career title at age 18. In defeating seven total competitors, Fernandez was also the youngest player in the main draw, and she marked the extraordinary feat of reaching the final without dropping a set.

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Currently, the Canadian-born Fernandez is ranked No. 24 in the world. Just before the New Year, she was named the 2021 Canadian Press Athlete of the Year.

Yet, while Fernandez is squarely focused on continuing her ascent in the tennis world, she will tell you that picking up the tennis racket wasn’t her first foray into sports as a youngster.

“I started sports by playing soccer. It was my first sport and in some ways my first love,” Fernandez said, in a recent Zoom interview. “I remember watching (Canadian soccer legend) Christine Sinclair at a young age, and taking in her commitment and dedication, watching her as a player throughout the years.”

Fernandez adds that it was Sinclair’s devotion and work ethic—and perhaps Sinclair’s remarkable 188 in 30 games as a Canadian international– that helps inform Fernandez’s own approach to tennis now.

And of course, Fernandez says she was ecstatic when her home country took the Olympic gold medal in women’s soccer last summer in Tokyo.

“Seeing the Canadian women win the gold was heartwarming. When they finally won, I was jumping for joy, just like every other Canadian soccer fan.”

At the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo last July, the Canada women’s national soccer team went 1-2-0 in the group stage and then eeked out a win over Brazil on penalties in the first knockout round. Then, after beating the United States USM -2.9% 1-0 in the semifinals, Canada went on to win the gold medal over Sweden, beating them 4-3 on penalties, August 6, 2021.

Now on top of being perhaps Canada’s biggest soccer fan, Fernandez has also gotten involved in promoting what Pelé himself once called “the beautiful game.”

Youth Athletes United, a multi-brand youth sports franchisor behind such ventures as Soccer Stars, Amazing Athletes, TGA Premier Sports, and JumpBunch, announced a new partnership with Fernandez, just this week. Youth Athletes United promotes youth sports not only for the fun of it but also considers soccer and other sports such as tennis and basketball as a means to which kids all across North America can use sports to develop character and learn life lessons.

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THE SOCIAL SLICE: LEYLAH FERNANDEZ MAKES IT BIG WITH GOOGLE PARTNERSHIP

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Every week, dozens of tennis players from around the world post on their social media. From funny videos to training updates, there are simply too many accounts to keep track of. That’s why we do the work for you by selecting the best posts from across the world of tennis.

Welcome to the Social Slice:

Leylah Fernandez
You may have heard of Leylah Fernandez. The 19-year-old reached the final of the US Open last year alongside Emma Raducanu, making her a teenage sensation overnight. Now, the Canadian is making it big with sponsorships, sharing her latest commercial with Google. She showed off her table tennis skills in the company’s latest commercial for the Google Pixel 6.

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‘Classic Complaint’: Serena Williams’ Coach Patrick Mouratoglou Takes Daniil Medvedev to Task Over On-Court Remarks Against…

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Round 4 of the Australian Open saw top seed Daniil Medvedev take on American Maxime Cressy. Even though on paper, the match should have been a breeze for the Russian, that wasn’t the case.

 

 

In fact, Medvedev seemed to lose his demeanor today completely, yelling frustratedly throughout. He even admitted to trying to get into Cressy’s head by calling him lucky on his serves.

Now, Patrick Mouratoglou, known for coaching Serena Williams and Stefanos Tsitsipas, has some words for Medvedev about his behavior.

The Coach does not approve of Daniil Medvedev’s objections
At one point in the match, Daniil Medvedev had yelled “this is so boring!” owing to his opponent’s playing style. Cressy, at 6’6″, seems to be heavily reliant on the serve-and-volley style. So much so that the American played no other way throughout the four-setter today.

Then, Medvedev resorted to mental tactics, trying to offset Cressy by yelling about his serve, and how he was simply getting lucky by staying inside the line on his explosive serves. Moreover, he also complained to the umpire about the time Maxime was taking in between serves.

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Thus, when he called his Amerian opponent’s playing style “boring”, famous French coach Patrick Mouratoglou had some words for the Russian. He called Medvedev’s objections a “classic complain(t) of the baseliners.”

Medvedev himself is a player who prefers staying near the baseline, seldom coming close to the net, during rallies or returns. Mouratoglou called it a complaint of all such players “when they play vs Serve and Volley players.”

In his interview after his victory, Medvedev called his tussle with Cressy “a great match”. However, he admitted that “during the match, (he) got a little bit crazy.” Then, he addressed his vocal frustrations on court.

“I tried, you know, to say something in the air, but getting to his (Cressy’s) mind a little bit,” the World No. 2 admitted. Thus, he hoped that this way, “maybe he (Cressy) is gonna miss some shots.”

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