No.9 seed Emma Raducanu pulled off a brilliant first-set comeback on her Mutua Madrid Open debut, coming from 5-2 down and saving two set points before defeating Tereza Martincova 7-6(3), 6-0 in 1 hour and 36 minutes. The win sets up a clash with fellow 19-year-old Marta Kostyuk in the second round.
Wildcard Kostyuk triumphed over a third 2002-born talent, Clara Tauson, 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour and 25 minutes in the first round. A fourth member of Generation 2002 in the top quarter of the draw, No.17 seed Leylah Fernandez, also advanced, overcoming qualifier Andrea Petkovic 6-1, 1-6, 6-4.
Raducanu's first ever pro match on clay was a 7-5, 7-5 win over Martincova in Billie Jean King Cup qualifier action just a fortnight ago. The Czech came out firing in a bid for revenge, but Raducanu managed to raise her level in spectacular fashion to win 11 of the last 12 games.
Turning point: Raducanu, who announced her split from coach Torben Beltz at the start of this week and who is working with Iain Bates in Madrid, came out flat and error-prone. Martincova, by contrast, was eagerly taking the ball on with clean striking, and captured the Raducanu serve for 4-2 on her sixth break point of the game.
At 5-2, 30-30, Martincova missed the opportunity to reach set point, letting Raducanu off the hook by sending a forehand long off a poor dropshot. The Czech still held two set points of her own serving in the subsequent game, but errors had begun to creep into her game, and groundstrokes over the baseline squandered both.
By contrast, Raducanu had elevated her game magnificently. Gone were the cheap errors; instead, the US Open champion's shot selection and placement shone as she ended a series of lung-busting rallies with clean winners. This display took her through to the end of a superb tiebreak, which she finished with an emphatic smash.
Turning point avoided: World No.49 Martincova put up less resistance in the second set, hitting out wildly in a bid to finish points quickly and racking up 17 unforced errors as a result. But Raducanu had recently lost a pair of matches after winning a tight first set and going up a break in the second, to Petra Martic in Indian Wells and to Katerina Siniakova in Miami.
Here, the teenager demonstrated that she had learned from those losses. At 2-0 and 4-0, she was taken to deuce on her serve. But both times, she delivered solid play to swat away the half-chances for a Martincova comeback.
Raducanu on the comeback: "Whenever you play at a tournament for the first time it is different. And on a new court, I didn't practice on that one, so I was just trying to get familiar with the surroundings. And she came out swinging very well, so I was definitely feeling like I had to dig in here because I knew I wasn't playing my best at the beginning. So I'm proud of the way I was able to make the most out of what had on the day and then I settled down in the second set."
Raducanu on facing Kostyuk next: "All throughout juniors she was always the favorite when we played. She was considered much better. Yeah, it's a funny one. When we played last year she played very good, but also I wasn't very well that day. So it'll be an interesting match-up."
Kostyuk dazzles in first-time encounter
Despite being peers, this was the first meeting between Kostyuk and Tauson at any level, including juniors. It was the Ukrainian, ranked 19 spots lower at No.60 to Tauson's No.41, who was sharper throughout.
Kostyuk came up with a series of dazzling highlight-reel shots to take control of the match: swashbuckling net play, backhands lasered down the line and delicately finessed dropshots. Tauson, playing her first match since retiring in the first round of Miami due to heat illness, was both more cautious in her shot selection and more error-prone on routine rally shots.
The Dane briefly threatened a comeback when she broke Kostyuk back for 2-2 in the second set, only for Kostyuk to come out on top of a four-deuce tussle to regain the advantage immediately. From there, Kostyuk motored home, winning 15 of the last 20 points of the match.
Highlights: Kostyuk d. Tauson
"I started to finally play the way I should be playing," Kostyuk said afterwards. "It always feels great. I work a lot, always did, but I think I struggled these past couple of years even though I had good results. I'm just trying to fight and find a way to compete and I think today I succeeded.
"I played doubles with [Tauson] in 2020 and 2021, but I never knew how her ball is. Never practiced with her. I didn't know what to expect at all. By watching, I cannot feel it. She has an unbelievable forehand. Unbelievable. It's her great weapon. I think she will be a solid player."
Kostyuk was also eager for a rematch with Raducanu, whom she beat 6-2, 6-1 in the Cluj-Napoca quarterfinals last October.
"It was a really quick match, I have to say," Kostyuk recalled. "She's very explosive. She hits very hard. She's still very new on tour, she hasn't even played all the tournaments. At times, I don't know what to expect from her because one match she can play really good, one match not very good.
"I have to always be ready for whatever. I cannot underestimate her or overestimate. I think we will play a lot of times in the future."
Fernandez survives, Teichmann bounces Kvitova
Fernandez outlasted former World No.9 Andrea Petkovic in 1 hour and 59 minutes to win her Madrid main-draw debut. The 2021 US Open runner-up came back from a 2-0 deficit in the third set to prevail in her first meeting against Germany's Petkovic.
The Canadian teenager will face Jil Teichmann, who handed three-time champion Petra Kvitova her earliest Madrid exit in 12 years, winning 6-3, 7-5 in 1 hour and 21 minutes.
“To be fast, honestly,” Teichmann said, when asked what the key to the match was. “I had to be really reactive. She plays really fast. I knew that from before, I played her on hard courts, actually. I have a lot of respect for Petra. She’s one of the greatest.”
The Barcelona-born Swiss has previously been a dangerous unseeded draw in Madrid. Now ranked No.35, Teichmann made her Madrid debut last year and proceeded to upset No.5 Elina Svitolina in the first round after saving six match points.
Looking forward to the second round, Teichmann defeated Fernandez in straight sets in their only previous meeting, which came at a Billie Jean King Cup qualifying tie in 2020 on indoor hard court.