After two highly competitive sets, British star Emma Raducanu ultimately lost 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (3-7) 1-6 to Elina Svitolina; this was just the second match in Raducanu’s comeback; Watch the Brisbane International featuring Rafael Nadal live on Sky Sports
The best of the action from Emma Raducanu’s match against Elina Svitolina at the Brisbane International
Emma Raducanu lost her second match at the Auckland Classic, succumbing to Elina Svitolina in three sets as the British star continues her comeback from injury.
Raducanu came close to victory, missing out in a second-set tiebreak, but she faded in the deciding set as Svitolina closed out the match in dominant fashion.
After two highly competitive sets, the British star lost 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (3-7) 1-6.
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Raducanu hits a lovely drop shot to take the first set against second seed Elina Svitolina
Raducanu was returning to the WTA Tour for the first time since April of last year at this tournament in New Zealand, having recovered from surgeries on both of her wrists and her left ankle.
She made a winning comeback when she beat Elena-Gabriela Ruse in her opening match in Auckland.
In her second, though, she was taking on the tournament second seed in Svitolina, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon last year.
Svitolina was also the 2023 WTA Comeback Player of the Year having returned from giving birth to rise from outside the top 1000 to 25th in the world rankings.
Raducanu started the match in fine form, a double break seeing her build a healthy lead in the first set, but momentum started to swing to the Ukrainian as twice she broke back.
Image: Raducanu in action against Svitolina at the Auckland Classic
On two occasions Raducanu had served for the set and failed to capitalise on both opportunities but she held serve to take the first set to a tie-break, which she won 7-5.
The Briton was under pressure immediately at the start of the second set before fighting her way back, matching Svitolina as the intensity of the match continued to increase.
Raducanu levelled the set and Svitolina had to hold her nerve and her serve to take them into a second tiebreak.
Momentum swung from one to the other, with Svitolina striking first for the first mini-break. Surging back, an excellent return of serve from Raducanu opened up the following point and she won the next against the serve, too.
She extended her lead when an error from Svitolina saw her play the ball too long in a rally but a blazing backhand from Svitolina then beat Raducanu.
Image: Svitolina proved too strong for Raducanu in the third set
The Ukrainian fought all the way back to win the tiebreak 7-3 and edge the second set after costly mistakes from Raducanu.
The Briton then faded in the last set, struggling to keep up with Svitolina as her opponent finished in commanding fashion.
Raducanu fought to the end, taking the final game to deuce, but the Ukrainian hammered an ace past her to get a second match point, one she converted with a fine forehand to seal the contest.
Svitolina said afterwards. “It’s a really amazing atmosphere. It was a really great match from both of us. I think Emma played a great match as well. It was really difficult physically.
“I’m really happy with the way I handled the pressure moments. Just happy to be here, to start my year here with two wins.”
Image: Injuries and three surgeries have kept Raducanu out of action for eight months
Positives for Raducanu despite defeat
Sky Sports pundit Naomi Broady said: “Loads of positives to take. Both of them played above their rankings. For Raducanu it was the second match she’s played in eight months, first tournament back and her first match was tough as well. I think it was maybe just a step too far physically but both of them were playing top-10 level today.”
Commentator Jonathan Overend said: “Ultimately she’s lost the match. But tennis is one of those sports where perspective is so, so important, particularly when you’ve had eight months out and three surgeries.
“To come back and be playing at that sort of level should give her so much encouragement and I really hope she takes more positives than negatives from this experience. If she can play that well against a player of Svitolina’s quality, then this could be a really exciting year for Raducanu.”
Gauff continues winning start
US Open champion Coco Gauff overcame hard-hitting Czech teenager Barbara Fruhvirtova 6-3 6-0 to extend her winning start to the year as she looks to defend her Auckland title.
Fruhvirtova, 16, troubled Gauff at first and broke the American’s serve to love in the third game of the first set.
Gauff immediately broke back in a game of 14 points to level the set at 2-2. After saving a break point in her next service game, Gauff broke again to lead 4-2.
She served for the first set at 5-3 and had to save a break point before clinching the set in 40 minutes.
Image: Coco Gauff of United States plays a forehand return to Brenda Fruhvirtova
Gauff immediately broke Fruhvirtova in the first game of the second set as she began to find more depth in her returns.
She also broke in third and fifth games and held her serve with confidence, highlighting her second service game with a 190kph (118mph) ace.
Gauff had to save two break points as she served for the match at 5-0 but managed to allay any threat with her sixth ace.
The American said: “I thought I played well. She started really well and I was able to raise my level. I thought I served and I did better on my returns.”
Watch the Brisbane International featuring Rafael Nadal live on Sky Sports Main Event.