Emma Raducanu eases to impressive win over Sloane Stephens in Eastbourne

Emma Raducanu delighted the Eastbourne crowd by dispatching Sloane Stephens in straight sets in the first round of the Rothesay 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, who was later joined in round two by British number one Katie Boulter, will next face second seed Jessica Pegula.

Emma Raducanu returns the ball from the baseline
Emma Raducanu in action on day four of the Rothesay International at Devonshire Park (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“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.

Boulter, who defeated Raducanu en route to retaining the Nottingham Open title earlier this month, then overcame Petra Martic on the same court.

The 27-year-old was beaten by Croatian lucky loser Martic at the same stage 12 months ago but avenged that loss after racing ahead and then battling back from 5-1 down in a tense second-set tiebreak to progress 6-1 7-6 (8).

“That was a little stressful, a little bit more dramatic than I hoped it would be,” said Boulter, who will face 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the last 16.

“I played a tiebreak a couple of weeks ago which I didn’t come on the winning end of and I had that in the back of my head when I was playing that one there. I’m just very happy to be through that.

“I know Petra very well. I lost to her on these courts last year. It’s a little bit of deja vu but this time I got the winning end, so I’m happy.”

Earlier, British wildcard Yuriko Miyazaki was comprehensively beaten 6-1 6-2 by Belgium’s Elise Mertens.