Emma Raducanu earns a favorable draw at the Australian Open, but Novak Djokovic stalks Andy Murray

Emma Raducanu will face American Shelby Rogers in the first round of the Australian Open – GETTY IMAGES

After a worrying couple of days in Melbourne, which saw her withdraw from two consecutive exhibition matches, Emma Raducanu’s journey improved on Thursday.

After putting in a solid two-hour practice session in the morning, she earned a favorable draw against a woman who hasn’t played on the tour for six months.

In an echo of the tournament that made her famous, Raducanu will open her Australian Open campaign against Shelby Rogers, the 31-year-old American whom she thrashed on her way to the 2021 US Open title.

That previous match was Raducanu’s first at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the largest stadium in tennis, and he had a look of amazement as he looked out at the dizzying stands.

But if he felt any anxiety about performing on such a grand stage, he soon overcame it as he reeled off 11 straight games, turning Rogers’ early lead into a 6-2, 6-1 loss.

Emma Raducanu has happy memories of the last time she beat Shelby Rogers, at Arthur Ashes in 2021.Emma Raducanu has happy memories of the last time she beat Shelby Rogers, at Arthur Ashes in 2021.

Emma Raducanu has happy memories of the last time she beat Shelby Rogers, at Arthur Ashes in 2021 – GETTY IMAGES

Today, as a global celebrity with 2.4 million followers on Instagram, Raducanu is used to being the main attraction. But his low ranking after his injury suspension (he is ranked 299th in the world and Rogers is 156th) means he will probably have to settle for one of the smaller show courts.

As this is the first Australian Open to introduce a Sunday start, the first round of the tournament will span three days and it has not yet been decided when Raducanu will play. He may prefer to wait until Tuesday after the general soreness she endured in her comeback tournament in Auckland last week, which led her to withdraw from those two exhibition matches scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

However, fears that Raducanu might suffer a specific injury were allayed on Thursday when she practiced for two hours at Melbourne Park alongside her last stand-in coach, Nick Cavaday, who had previously worked with her as a junior prospect at Bromley Tennis Centre.

In a tie that yielded mixed results for the British contingent, Andy Murray faced 30th seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry of Argentina. If he were to win that one, Murray could face two old foes he’s known since his youth: Gael Monfils in the second round and…gulp…Novak Djokovic in the third.

“Hopefully we can get there,” said Murray, who made a second appearance at the Kooyong Classic exhibition on Thursday and earned a solid 6-4, 6-2 victory over former US Open champion Dominic Thiem. “I haven’t done my best at Grand Slams in recent years, so my focus has to be on the first match. But I would love to play against Novak again if possible.”

How the Brits might fare in Melbourne

Emma Raducanu (299) vs. Shelby Rogers (156)

Rogers’ form will be difficult to predict. He has not played since Wimbledon last year due to abdominal and knee problems. So Raducanu, who also missed most of last season through injury, might have a slight advantage from the fact that he enjoyed a show in Auckland last week. Rogers is 5-foot-9 and relies on a direct route-one game from the baseline. Raducanu would be wise to use angles and changes of pace to keep it moving, because Rogers gives the ball a real snap when he is allowed to set his feet. If Raducanu were to advance, he would likely face 22nd seed Sorana Cirstea, the Romanian he ambushed in the third round of Wimbledon in 2021, in a demanding upcoming match.

Prediction: third round

Andy Murray (44) against Tomás Martín Etcheverry (30)

Murray hasn’t had much luck with his Australian Open draws lately. In four appearances since his hip problem began, he has earned a first-round matchup with a top seed each time. Etcheverry may not be a big name, except in the most literal sense, but he is a relentless shredder who reveals very little. These two met twice on the ATP Tour last season, recording one victory each after a pair of three-set fights. However, in the longer format employed at the Slams, Murray would do well to avoid another dogfight against such a physically powerful opponent. “It’s not easy,” Murray said Thursday. “He had a great year last year and plays very well. It is a good test for me in the first game.”

Prediction: third round

Andy Murray in action against Marin Cilic at the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne on ThursdayAndy Murray in action against Marin Cilic at the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne on Thursday

Andy Murray in action against Marin Cilic at the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne on Thursday – GETTY IMAGES

Cameron Norrie (19) against Juan Pablo Varillas (80)

This should be a comfortable draw against a 28-year-old Peruvian who has only one Grand Slam victory on hard courts. However, there must be some concern about Norrie’s fitness level after he made the late decision to withdraw from the ATP event in Auckland on Thursday. The reason given was a problem with his right wrist. Even if Norrie’s agent insisted that the withdrawal was “precautionary,” Norrie himself has a sentimental fondness for the town where he grew up and would not have made this decision lightly.

Prediction: fourth round

Cameron Norrie is a doubt for the Australian Open after withdrawing from the Auckland Open due to injuryCameron Norrie is a doubt for the Australian Open after withdrawing from the Auckland Open due to injury

Cameron Norrie doubtful for Australian Open after withdrawing from Auckland Open due to injury – GETTY IMAGES

Katie Boulter (57) vs. Yue Yuan (73)

Boulter arrives at the Australian Open with a place in the world’s top 50 in his sights. After a fast start to the new season, she scored the best victory of her career over world No. 5 Jessica Pegula at the United Cup in Perth, but then lost some of that momentum when losing to little-known Anna Bogdan in Adelaide . Still, this is a decent draw. Both women are unusually tall (Boulter is 5-foot-11 and Yuan is 5-foot-10) and will play first-hit tennis, because they are not the best defenders. If Boulter were to win, she would likely face another Chinese opponent, the dangerous Qinwen Zheng, in her next match.

Prediction: second round

Dan Evans (40) vs. Lorenzo Sonego (46)

Evans won’t be able to match Sonego, a tall and agile Italian, when it comes to power. But then, as a speedy runner with a silky touch, he’s used to shutting down more physically imposing players. Sonego can be destructive when his game is flowing, but he is also prone to weakness and has generally underperformed in the majors. If Evans were to pull through, he would likely earn a repeat of his fan-pleasing US Open clash with reigning Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz.

Prediction: second round

Jodie Burrage (102) vs. Tamara Korpatsch (81)

Korpatsch was Raducanu’s opponent here last year and went down without much protest, even though Raducanu was hampered by the consequences of a sprained ankle. He normally does his best on clay courts, while Burrage prefers faster surfaces. On that basis, we could tip Burrage to open his first Australian Open with a victory. However, if we are correct, Burrage faces a likely meeting with ninth seed Barbora Krejcikova in the second round.

Prediction: second round

Jack Draper (62) against Marcos Girón (60)

These two might be close on the ranking ladder, but Draper is clearly underrated at No. 62, having missed the entire grass season last year with a serious shoulder tendon injury. His talent was underlined by the fact that he went undefeated in the UTS Finals at London Docklands last month, beating such top opponents as world number 8 Holger Rune and three-time top finalist Casper Ruud. . Yes, we are talking about an exhibition, and a peculiar one at that. But I have yet to meet a professional athlete who likes to lose.

Prediction: second round

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