They leaped into the sometimes withering light of the public arena at young ages. And yet, because of their unique trajectories, the questions facing Coco Gauff and Emma Raducanu are very different.
Can Raducanu, who won the 2021 US Open at the age of 18 -- out of virtually thin air -- follow up that surprising early success?
Naomi Osaka was the 2018 US Open champion at the age of 20 and went on to win three more majors. Iga Swiatek, the 2020 winner at Roland Garros, soon won two more Grand Slams and is the No.1 player in the world. Can Raducanu join them as multi-time Slam winners?
Australian Open: Scores | Draw | Order of play
For Gauff who made her first major splash at 15, bounding into the fourth round at Wimbledon, it seems to be less a matter of whether she’ll win a major -- and more a question of how many.
With the future in the balance, their destinies collide Wednesday in a second-round match at the Australian Open. It’s the first-career meeting, but you get the idea it won’t be the last.
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The numbers are in Gauff’s favor; she’s ranked No.7, 70 spots ahead of Raducanu, and is on a six-match win streak after taking the title in Adelaide. Gauff, despite the fact she is 16 months younger, has played more than 50 matches more as a professional and twice as many Grand Slam events. Of course, Raducanu has wildly defied expectations before.
Day 1 results
But as Gauff pointed out after defeating Katerina Siniakova 6-1, 6-4 on Monday, Raducanu has probably been graded on a harder curve.
“Obviously she’s gone through a lot of pressure, bursting onto the scene,” Gauff told reporters. “I feel like probably more than I have experienced coming to win a Slam. And especially I feel like being from the UK, being the first British person to do something in a long time, probably is a lot more pressure than what I’m used to being an American.
“I definitely can relate to bursting onto the scene and dealing with some pressure but I don’t think to that level.”
Raducanu’s body was clearly not prepared for her first complete season on the Hologic WTA Tour. She suffered a number of injuries and retired from competition four times in mid-match. It happened again recently when she suffered a left ankle injury in Auckland.
She left the court in tears after dropping the second set to Viktoria Kuzmova. After her 6-3, 6-2 first-round victory over Tamara Korpatsch, she reported the ankle is sound.
“I think she’s a great athlete,” Raducanu said of Gauff. “When she first came at Wimbledon, I think after that, took her a little bit to adjust as well, but then she definitely found her feet. She’s playing really good tennis and looking really solid right now. Yeah, she's a great athlete with some big weapons.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a tough opponent. I’m looking forward to the occasion.”
So is Gauff, who said they have never even practiced together.
“I have obviously watched her play, especially during the US Open run, and I think for a really aggressive player she likes to step in on the returns,” Gauff said. “I’m just going to have to be ready and accept some return winners that might come my way. I think for the most part, just continuing to play my game and focus on my end of the court. I think it will be a good matchup for both of us.”
Here are some other notable matches from the top half of the draw:
No.1 Iga Swiatek vs. Camila Osorio
This is the first meeting between a pair of 21-year-olds with vastly different records on tour. Swiatek is a three-time Grand Slam singles champion, while the No.84-ranked Osorio is a three-time WTA-level finalist. Her one title came in 2021 Bogota on clay, her best surface. Swiatek handled Jule Niemeier 6-4, 7-5 in the first round. Osorio was a 6-4, 6-1 winner over Panna Udvardy.
No.3 Jessica Pegula vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich
They’ve played once, in the second round of last year’s US Open. Pegula won 6-4, 6-4 on her way to the quarterfinals.
No.6 Maria Sakkari vs. qualifier Diana Shnaider
There’s 100 ranking spots between them -- and these two have never met -- but Sakkari has lost six of her past 10 matches to left-handers. And yes, this qualifier is a lefty. Dating back to Stuttgart 2021, the list of supreme southpaws: Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber. Beatriz Haddad-Maia (twice), Wang Xiyu and Martina Trevisan.
No.10 Madison Keys vs. Wang Xinyu
This is the first match for Keys and the 21-year-old from China. Keys is off to a torrid 6-0 start in 2023 and is a two-time semifinalist in Melbourne. Wang was a straight-sets winner over Australian wild card Storm Hunter.
No.13 Danielle Collins vs. Karolina Muchova
Another first-time match, this one features Collins, a finalist at last year’s Australian Open, and Muchova -- a semifinalist here in 2021, when she knocked off Ashleigh Barty before losing to Jennifer Brady. Muchova, currently ranked No.133, was plagued by injuries last year but has won three of four matches in 2023.
No.15 Petra Kvitova vs. Anhelina Kalinina
These two were scheduled to play for the first time at last year’s US Open, but Kalinia withdrew before the second-round encounter with an illness.
No.22 Elena Rybakina vs. Kaja Juvan
Rybakina, ranked No.25, was the Wimbledon champion last year, while the No.104-ranked Juvan has won two of three matches to start the season, including a straight-sets win against qualifier Selena Janicijevic.