Emma Raducanu claimed her first match-win since her sensational run to the US Open title at the Transylvania Open on Tuesday. The No.3 seed from Great Britain fought back from a set down to overcome Polona Hercog of Slovenia, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the first round in Cluj-Napoca.
The 18-year-old Raducanu, who made history by becoming the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title last month, saw a 4-1 first-set lead slip away, but recovered to eke out the second set before easing home in the third after a topsy-turvy 2 hours and 27 minutes.
"Polona’s a great opponent, and she’s really experienced, so I really had to fight hard to pull that one through," Raducanu said, in her post-match press conference. "I thought that by the end of the third set, I was playing some better tennis, and the most important thing was I earned another opportunity to go and play better in my next round."
Fast facts: World No.23 Raducanu had played only one match since her heroics in New York City, having fallen to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in her opening match at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
However, Raducanu was able to turn the tide against 124th-ranked Hercog. The 30-year-old Hercog is an experienced former Top 40 player with three WTA singles titles to her name, but the Slovene came into the event with a 13-19 win-loss record for the year.
Raducanu held a staggering 17 break points in their first meeting, and while she was only able to convert four of those chances, it still kept her in front of Hercog, who went 2-for-5 on break points.
"It feels like a huge win, to be honest," said Raducanu. "It’s actually my first WTA [event main-draw] win, which makes me very, very happy."
Key moments: Raducanu broke for an early 2-0 advantage on her sixth break point of that protracted game, eventually taking a 4-1 lead in the opener after firing consecutive winners from both wings. But Hercog suddenly reeled off five games in a row once errors from the Brit mounted, and the unseeded player swiped the first set.
However, Raducanu stayed on pace with Hercog, fending off break points in each of her last two service games of the second set, as the pair moved to 6-5. After no breaks up to that point of the set, Hercog stared down three set points in that game. On Raducanu’s third chance, Hercog fired a forehand long, and the match was level at one set apiece.
Raducanu took control for good by breaking for 2-0 in the final set, and she swept to 5-0 on the back of a seven-game winning streak. Hercog staved off two match points before holding for 5-1, and a double fault by Raducanu gave the Slovene a break point in that game. Raducanu, though, erased that with a forehand winner, then closed out the victory two points later with her fourth ace.
"I think the key was to try and stay mentally composed," Raducanu said. "I just needed to keep going one point at a time. And I thought that if I kept giving myself the chance by holding serve, then maybe my tennis would improve and fall into place a bit better, and it did, so I’m really proud of myself with how I fought today."
Into round two: In the second round, Raducanu will face Romania's Ana Bogdan. World No.106 Bogdan defeated Ivana Jorovic of Serbia, 7-6(1), 6-4, to pick up a first-round win on home soil on Monday.
Winning wildcards: Earlier on Tuesday, two Romanian wildcards picked up victories on home soil, in lengthy three-set thrillers of their own. First, Irina Bara upset countrywoman and No.7 seed Irina-Camelia Begu, 7-6(2), 0-6, 6-4 in an all-Romanian clash.
World No.138 Bara regrouped after being bageled by her higher-ranked compatriot in the second set, grabbing the only break of the decider at 2-2 before outlasting World No.57 Begu in nearly two-and-a-half hours.
Bara will next face Rebecca Peterson of Sweden for a spot in the quarterfinals. Peterson defeated Croatian lucky loser Jana Fett on Tuesday, 6-1, 6-3.
Later, Romanian hope Jaqueline Cristian earned a gritty 3-6, 7-6(8), 7-6(3) win over Slovenia’s Kaja Juvan, advancing into the second round after a grueling 2 hours and 46 minutes of action.
World No.105 Cristian was down 3-5 in the second set and had to save two match points in the second-set tiebreak before fighting back to collect the win over 98th-ranked Juvan. Cristian will now take on No.5 seed Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia in her next match.