AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Former U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu overcame wind and rain in a match which stretched over almost four hours to beat Linda Fruhvirtova 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in her first singles match of 2023 at the ASB Classic.
The match was twice interrupted by rain and the second delay in the deciding set forced the players from the court for almost an hour.
Raducanu returned to take charge by immediately breaking the 17-year-old Fruhvirtova for a 2-0 lead and going on to serve for the match at 5-0.
Fruhvirtova broke back for 5-1, then saved four match points on serve in a tenacious attempt to keep the contest alive.
Raducanu fell behind 0-30 in her next service game but recovered with a series of big serves and finally secured the win in just under 2 1-2 hours of court time, not counting delays.
“I think it’s like four hours later. Honestly, I don’t know what time it is anymore,” Raducanu said. “What a battle. Linda is such a great young player and it was a different dynamic for me because usually I’m the younger one. Going into this match she is and she’s going to be up there for sure, she already is.”
Raducanu, who is 20, was playing her first competitive match in 2 1-2 months and had to fight hard against the Czech teenager, who won a tight first set in 53 minutes.
The first and shorter rain delay came at 4-4 in the first set. Fruhvirtova took an early 2-0 lead in the second set but Raducanu broke back for 2-2 and went on to take the set in 46 minutes.
The second rain break came with Raducanu leading 1-0 in the third set. She won the next four games and eventually the match with a marked lift in aggression. While her serve was strong, her return of serve was decisive and she won 65% of points of Fruhvirtova’s second serve.
Top-seeded American Coco Gauff also had to contend with two lengthy rain delays before beating Germany’s Tatjana Maria 6-4, 6-1.
The seventh-ranked Gauff had let slip a 4-0 lead in the first set and Maria was serving at 4-3 when a cloudburst forced the players from the court. Play resumed briefly and Gauff improved her lead to 5-4 when the second rain break occurred.
Gauff returned to win six straight games to open a 5-0 lead in the second set before Maria held serve again. Gauff calmly served out the match for her first win of the year.
“Honestly, like it wasn’t tough because I was expecting (the rain) to happen,” Gauff said. “In between the rain delays I got a bit of help from my coach.
“But I’m from Florida and we’re kinda used to the stop start, stop start. It’s the tropical weather.”
Raducanu’s second-round opponent will be Slovakia qualifier Viktoria Kuzmova, who upset fourth-seeded Bernarda Pera 6-4, 6-4.
Kuzmova took advantage of a strong first serve to win key points in a tight contest while Pera, the Croatia-born American, struggled in windy conditions and had nine double faults.
After winning the first set, Kuzmova dropped 3-0 behind in the second before reeling off five straight games. She had two match points on Pera’s serve at 5-3 but the 44th-ranked Pera saved both. She saved two more as Kuzmova served for the match at 5-4, finally clinching the match with her ninth ace.
“In this type of weather when it’s really windy I knew everything is possible,” Kuzmova said. “I just tried to stay positive and go for every ball and I’m very happy that I won the second set.”