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Women’s Tennis Raducanu eases to impressive win over Stephens in Eastbourne

EMMA RADUCANU delighted the crowd today by dispatching Sloane Stephens in straight sets in the first round of the Eastbourne International.

The 21-year-old Briton on Monday declared herself back in love with the sport following a torrid time with injuries.

She delivered in style on her maiden outing at Devonshire Park, producing a string of eye-catching winners to triumph 6-4 6-0 in a big-hitting battle of former US Open champions.

Wildcard Raducanu will face second seed Jessica Pegula in round two.

“It was a very close first set and I was down quite a bit all the way through and managed to break,” she said on court following victory.

“But it’s very difficult because Sloane is super athletic and, in the first set especially, she was making a lot of balls and counter-punching really well.

“It took a lot to try and hit through her but I managed to figure it out in the second set.”

Raducanu missed the entire grass-court season last year following surgery on both wrists and one ankle.

Yet she showed little sign of any fitness troubles as she warmed up for Wimbledon in devastating fashion by building on her recent run to the semi-finals of Nottingham.

Having been cheered on to Centre Court by a supportive home crowd, Raducanu was aggressive from the outset.

A succession of early holds was followed by four consecutive breaks of service during which the home favourite impressively dug in to prevent 31-year-old American Stephens gaining the upper hand.

A deft drop shot followed by an ace in game nine helped turn the contest in Raducanu’s favour before she unleashed a stunning backhand cross-court winner en route to sealing the set.

She then cruised through the second set as world number 45 Stephens, who triumphed at Flushing Meadows in 2017, struggled to cope with her opponent’s power and precision.

Meanwhile, Cameron Norrie’s poor form continued today as he crashed out of the tournament in Eastbourne following a disappointing first-round defeat to world number 88 Emil Ruusuvuori.

The former British number one has slipped outside the top 40 after losing nine of his previous 15 matches, including first-round exits at the French Open and Queen’s.

Norrie, who was also beaten by world number 773 Jack Pinnington Jones at Nottingham, saw his miserable run extended by a 7-6 (9) 6-3 exit at the hands of 25-year-old Finn Ruusuvuori.

The 28-year-old was ranked eighth in the world just 18 months ago and will begin Wimbledon next week with only limited competitive preparation on grass.

Norrie failed to capitalise on two break points in the sixth game of a tight opening set and was subsequently unable to seize a pair of set points in the tie break.

Ruusuvuori recovered from both 40-0 and 40-15 down to save service games in the second set, either side of claiming a decisive break, to condemn Norrie to his maiden first-round exit in five visits to Devonshire Park.

Liam Broady was also unable to mark his return from injury with victory as he was beaten by Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka.

The 30-year-old had been sidelined since March after his comeback from an ankle issue was delayed by sustaining concussion when he hit his head on a car boot in a bizarre accident.

Broady, who has reached the third round of Wimbledon in each of the past two years, was a break up in the second set before succumbing to a 6-3 6-4 loss.

Elsewhere, fellow Briton Paul Jubb claimed his first ATP Tour win by defeating German Maximilian Marterer at the Mallorca Championships.

The 24-year-old, who has received a Wimbledon wild card, progressed to the last 16 with a 6-1 6-2 success after coming through qualifying.


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