British sensation Emma Raducanu faces a tough draw amid her quest to win back-to-back majors and could meet childhood icon Simona Halep as early as the third round at this year’s Australian Open.
Raducanu is seeded 17th and has been pitted against former world number three Sloane Stephens in the opening round at Melbourne.
The matchup is perhaps the most inviting of all the first-round contests and will see the two former US Open winners face each other for the first time in a major tournament.
Raducanu is the reigning US Open champion and famously won 10 matches in a row without dropping a set on course to victory.
This unprecedented triumph, which saw her become the first qualifier to ever win a Grand Slam, catapulted her up the rankings and into the world’s top 20 players.
Stephens, meanwhile, has struggled in recent years after winning at Flushing Meadows back in 2017.
The US star reached the final of the French Open the following year, but has only reached the quarter-finals of a major once in 11 appearances since then.
Stephens has often been noted for her mindset on court and having a perceived nonchalant attitude towards losing matches.
Her former coach Chris Evert questioned her motivation and has put her inconsistency down to mentality problems.
Raducanu has likewise struggled with consistency since her debut major title last September.
Early exits at the Transylvania Open and the Indian Wells Masters were put down to inexperience and mental fatigue, but her start to the 2022 season has cast doubts over her chances in Melbourne.
The teenager was thrashed 6-0 6-1 in less than an hour by Elena Rybakina in the first round of the Sydney Tennis Classic last week.
So disappointed was the Brit in her performance that she immediately returned to the practice courts after the match to work on her serve.
Should the Brit come through her opening match versus Stephens, and then a round two clash against Danka Kovinic or a qualifier could beckon, followed by a match against Halep.
Raducanu, whose Dad is from Bucharest in Romania, has previously admitted to idolising the two-time major winner.
It doesn’t get any easier for the 19-year-old after that, with the prospect of a meeting against WTA Finals champion Garbine Muguruza potentially awaiting in round four.
Rybakina is also on the Brit’s side of the draw and the two would face each other again in the quarter-finals, should both of them make it that far.
Fortunately for Raducanu, world number one Ashleigh Barty and reigning champion Naomi Osaka are both in a different bracket, though second seed Aryna Sabalenka could be waiting in the semi-finals if the teenager can string together another run at a major tournament.
It appears the US Open champion has her work cut out if she is to repeat her heroics from New York, especially given her struggles for consistency of late.
Yet, the British prodigy surpassed all expectations at Flushing Meadows last year, and it would be foolish to suggest she couldn’t do the same again.News Now - Sport News