STUTTGART, Germany -- Exactly 12 months ago, Emma Raducanu played her final match before going under the knife. The 2021 US Open champion needed a wild card to enter the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix and proceeded to lose, rather quietly, 6-2, 6-1 to Jelena Ostapenko in the first round. 

What a difference a year makes. 

Back at the Porsche-Arena on Wednesday, Raducanu reversed her fortune, defeating two-time champion Angelique Kerber by the same scoreline to advance to the second round.  

"It's a bit of a milestone moment for me, and I just feel like I have come a long way in that year," Raducanu said after the win. After that loss to Ostapenko last year, Raducanu shut down her season to have three separate surgeries, one on each wrist and one on her ankle. 

After notching two comeback wins on the clay in France to lead Great Britain to a 3-1 upset win at the Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers over the weekend, Raducanu has come into Stuttgart riding a surge in confidence. Since returning to competition in January, she is 8-5 on the season. She has won three consecutive matches for the first time since Indian Wells in 2023.

“Tennis-wise I have improved because I feel like I am playing the best tennis of my career and my life,” she told the BBC after leading Great Britain to victory. 

Raducanu elaborated on that statement in Stuttgart.

"I think my serve is more of a weapon now," Raducanu said. "I think last weekend I played some great tennis. Obviously, it wasn't a lot of time to turn over since last weekend. Going back up again tomorrow, it's more just a challenge of the body, I'd say, but I think I'm mentally in a good place. I'm taking a lot of confidence from the training I'm doing.

"I feel like I can actually lean on that more so now because I'm actually doing the work, whereas last year it was very difficult."

Raducanu's confidence was evident as she faced Kerber for the first time in Stuttgart. She played aggressive, precision tennis to dominate the match from the jump. Raducanu pocketed the first set in 40 minutes, striking 13 winners to just five unforced errors.

In total, Raducanu broke the German's serve six times, winning 82.6 percent of Kerber's second-serve points. Raducanu finished with 26 winners to 11 unforced errors. Kerber matched Raducanu in the winner count but hit nearly three times the unforced errors, striking 29. 

"At any moment she can just turn it on and battle," Raducanu said. "In the first set, at the beginning we had some really long rallies. In the second set we had some really long games. I just remember so many long deuce games. Even though the score was 6-2, 6-1, it was a lot tighter in the game.

"I did really well in the crucial moments."

Raducanu spoils Kerber's Stuttgart return with first-round win

Raducanu will face the Czech Republic's Linda Noskova on Thursday. Raducanu won their only previous meeting, a soggy, gritty 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-1 win at Roland Garros in 2022. A victory would put Raducanu into her second Stuttgart quarterfinal, having made the final eight in her tournament debut in 2022. 

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't tired, but I would way rather be in this position where I have played a lot of matches and I'm feeling fatigued than being super fresh and losing," Raducanu said. "It's funny, because you always want something that you can't have.

"But I am playing some really good tennis. I feel like I'm playing level-wise, I knew it before I went to Fed Cup even, like, training, I was playing really well. I think everyone that I was practicing with can attest to that too."

Raducanu spoiled Kerber's return to Stuttgart for the first time since 2022. The former No.1 swept back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016 and was bidding for her 17th win in Stuttgart, which would have given her the outright lead for the most wins since the tournament shifted to clay in 2009.