Emma Raducanu proved her historic US Open victory was no fluke with a hard-fought victory over former Grand Slam champion Sloane Stephens.
The Brit had entered the competition off the back of a humbling 6-0 6-1 defeat to Elena Rybakina at the Sydney Tennis Classic last week but started the match with the same intensity and fearlessness that made her a major champion last year.
Stephens, who is a US Open winner in her own right, had no answer to the ruthless teenager in the first set. In just 17 minutes, the 19-year-old won 24 points to Stephens’ four and broke the American three times.
However, the second set was far more error-strewn for the British prodigy and Stephens broke three times herself to clinch the set 6-2.
With all to play for in the third, it was Raducanu who wrestled back the initiative and raced into a 5-0 lead.
From there, she closed out the match –– eventually winning 6-0 2-6 6-1.
The scoreline was not necessarily reflective of how the set had played out. Raducanu was often sloppy and made hard work of some service games. But importantly, the Brit won the decisive points and showed impressive mental fortitude.
Next up for Raducanu is world number 98 Danka Kovinić, who overcame qualifier Jang Su-jeong in the first round.
Kovinić has a career-high singles ranking of 46th but has never made it past the second round of a Grand Slam.
This is her fifth appearance at this tournament, however, and the Montenegran will be well used to the Melbourne conditions.
Raducanu will nonetheless feel confident of reaching the third round based on today’s performance alone.
Though the second set was far from straightforward and her unforced error count offers a potential cause for concern, the win itself will be crucial for helping the Brit rediscover her confidence.
If the teenager does manage to topple Kovinić, then a round three clash against Simona Halep could await.
The former world number one was one of Raducanu’s idols growing up and she would no doubt relish the opportunity to play the Romanian competitively for the first time.
Halep is seeded 14th for the event, having dropped down the rankings through injury last season.
Yet, so far, she has started the season well –– winning the Melbourne Summer Set against rising Russian star Veronika Kudermetova a fortnight ago.
And in the opening round at the Australian Open, the two-time Slam champion defeated Magdalena Fręch in straight sets, 6-4 6-3.
Both Raducanu and Halep still have work to do in their respective second-round games, but this blockbuster clash is starting to look increasingly more probable.