Raducanu defeats Stephens in Eastbourne first round



Emma Raducanu continued her Wimbledon preparations with an assured victory over fellow former Grand Slam champion Sloane Stephens at Eastbourne.

The 21-year-old Briton said on Monday she had "rekindled" her love of tennis.

And that was evident as she claimed an emphatic second-set bagel to wrap up a 6-4 6-0 win in front of a packed centre court.

"I'm very pleased I managed to figure out the situations in the first set, it was difficult and I don't think I was necessarily playing my best tennis," Raducanu told BBC TV.

"It's just about accepting that and not letting it ruin the entire match."

She will now play world number five Jessica Pegula, who is fresh from winning her fifth WTA Tour title at the Berlin Open on Sunday.

Raducanu has been criticised in recent weeks for opting to skip the French Open and deciding not to play for Great Britain at this summer's Olympics in Paris.

The former British number one said she was prioritising the home grass-court season and building up to full fitness after an injury-plagued 2023.

It is a move that seems, so far, to be paying off for Raducanu, who reached the semi-finals of the Nottingham Open earlier this month.

Neither player could take control in the opening stages, with the pair exchanging breaks before Raducanu struck the decisive blow at 5-4 - much to the delight of the British crowd.

The 2021 US Open champion's momentum grew from there, breaking Stephens' serve at the first opportunity in the second set.

And there was no looking back for Raducanu as Stephens, the US Open champion in 2017, crumbled and won just one point on her opponent's serve from then on.

There was a huge roar as Raducanu broke Stephens' serve for the sixth and final time to triumph after one hour and 17 minutes.

It takes Raducanu's record over Stephens to 2-0, having defeated the 31-year-old at the Australian Open in 2022.

"I'm in a better position to play compared to where I was," Raducanu said.

"The last two years have been such a blur so I am just looking forward and moving forward."

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