In years to come, few will remember Emma Raducanu recovering from a set down against Polona Hercog in Cluj-Napoca, to secure her first win since becoming US Open champion. But for the teenager, there was huge relief in getting the first WTA win of her career under her belt.
The oddity is in the fact that this milestone came at a relatively small 250 event, six weeks after winning her first major title. But it is unavoidable when you have the type of immediate success that Raducanu did in New York last month. In her first-ever three-setter, Raducanu showed resilience to progress to the second round at the Transylvania Open, after a two hour and 27-minute marathon - the longest match of her career so far.
With the pressure building after the 18-year-old lost her opening match at Indian Wells earlier this month, she said on Tuesday night that breaking her tour-level duck was "huge".
"To have won my first WTA match means a lot to me," she said. "I was on a losing streak of WTA matches, so I got my first one. It feels like a huge win. The key was to try and stay mentally composed. I knew I wasn’t playing very well so I needed to keep going one point at a time. I thought if I kept giving myself the chance by holding serve, then my tennis would improve and fall into place and it did. I am really proud of how I fought today."
She did not make it easy by any means, after squandering a 4-1 lead over Hercog in the first set, suddenly spiralling and losing five games in a row. With Raducanu's forehand misfiring and first serve percentage down at 56 per cent, the experienced Hercog sensed her opportunity. A former top 40 player, Hercog, 30, has been on a poor run of form this season, slumping to 124 in the world. But once she broke back against Raducanu, she started playing with confidence, bringing variety to the court with some well-timed drop shots and brilliant serving. It paid off and the Slovenian took the first set 6-4. Raducanu's frustration remained throughout the second set.
She rapped herself on the thigh with her racket after particularly bad errors and refuted a handful of calls, asking the umpire "are you joking?" when she thought a decision had unfairly gone against her. She was not at her best, the slow-moving indoor courts and behind-closed-door event a far cry from the pacy conditions and rapturous crowd at Flushing Meadows six weeks ago.
But her drive never wavered and she also had the vocal support of her father Ian in the stands, who had been unable to travel both to the US Open and Indian Wells. Still without a coach, after parting ways with Andrew Richardson last month, Raducanu is in Cluj-Napoca with a small team of just her physiotherapist, agent and father - who is from Romania.
He sat among the media seats in the almost-empty arena, and encouraged her with frequent shouts of "come on Emma" and "bravo" throughout the tight second set. Raducanu was up against it, and faced a break point at 5-5, but - like all champions do - she came up with the goods at key moments.
She relied on her now-signature backhand to get herself out of trouble and improved her serving. She eventually pushed the match to a decider and the momentum shift was instant. She powered to a commanding 5-0 lead, sealing the win with an ace, the final score 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.
super happy to get my first ever WTA win today.
Multumesc mult si 🇷🇴 , te iubesc ☺️ pic.twitter.com/bwh6jFwyK3
— Emma Raducanu (@EmmaRaducanu) October 26, 2021
She faces Romania's Ana Bogdan, ranked 106 in the world, in the second round later this week. “I take a lot from this match today," she said afterwards.
"I can turn matches around, and that was a big learning from me. Maybe there is a target on my back but even if there is pressure, I don’t think there is outside pressure, the only pressure is from myself. I actually quite enjoy playing under some sort of adrenaline."
— wta (@WTA) October 26, 2021
Elsewhere there was more success for fellow Briton Cameron Norrie at the Vienna Open on Tuesday. Fresh off securing an outstanding first Masters title at Indian Wells, his 7-6(4), 6-1 first-round victory over Marton Fucsovics boosted his chances of making the ATP Finals next month in Turin.
It was his 48th win this year, and as the fight for points hots up, Norrie thanked compatriot Andy Murray for ousting Hubert Hurkacz - one of the players also jostling for a spot in Turin - from the tournament on Monday. It was Murray's first win over a top-10 opponent in 14 months, and he faces Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz in the second round on Wednesday.
Emma Raducanu vs Polona Hercog, as it happened
That's all folks
Thanks as always for joining us. We'll be back again on Thursday for Raducanu's second round match against Bogdan.
Back to winning ways
The winning moment
— wta (@WTA) October 26, 2021
Who will Raducanu play next?
Raducanu is back in action on Thursday and will face Romanian Ana Bogdan for a place in the quarter-finals.
I was hoping to give you some post-match quotes from Raducanu but she did her interview largely in Romanian.
This 18-year-old is absurdly talented.
— Transylvania Open (@TransylvaniaOpn) October 26, 2021
Raducanu* 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 Hercog (*denotes server)
Raducanu drive forehand winner, 15-0. Hercog forehand into the net, 30-0. Raducanu backhand is just long. Then a backhand unforced error. Nerves perhaps?
Raducanu double fault, break point Hercog. Raducanu responds with a forehand winner. Raducanu backhand pass and Hercog nets the volley.
GAME. SET. MATCH. Raducanu ace!!!!
Raducanu 4-6, 7-5, 5-1 Hercog* (*denotes server)
Raducanu moves to 0-30 as Hercog's game unravels. Raducanu nets a backhand, 15-30. Hercog backhand wide, two match points.
Hercog saves the first. And then the second with a volley winner. And credit to Hercog, as she fights back to hold and make Raducanu serve for the match.
Raducanu* 4-6, 7-5, 5-0 Hercog (*denotes server)
Hercog forehand long, 15-0. Raducanu forehand winner, 30-0. Radcanu ace, 40-0.
Hercog return long and Raducanu is one game away from booking her place in the second round.
Raducanu 4-6, 7-5, 4-0 Hercog* (*denotes server)
Raducanu is in full command of the match now and she roars again as she gets to 40-30 when Hercog puts a forehand long.
Big serve by Hercog to save break point. Hercog forehand into the net, second break point for Raducanu. Hercog overhead clips the net and drops wide. SIX games in a row for Raducanu now.
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Raducanu* 4-6, 7-5, 3-0 Hercog (*denotes server)
Raducanu forehand winner down the line to start the game. Another one makes it 40-15.
And she holds when Hercog puts a backhand long.
Raducanu 4-6, 7-5, 2-0 Hercog* (*denotes server)
Vintage Raducanu backhand down the line and Hercog can't get the ball back in play, 0-15. Raducanu grinds her opponent down, dragging her wide and gaining the forehand error, 0-30.
Raducanu on the attack and Hercog's forehand breakdown, two break points. Hercog forehand into the net.
A fist pump by Raducanu as she takes the lead. The momentum is back with her.
Third set: Raducanu* 4-6, 7-5, 1-0 Hercog (*denotes server)
Both players went for a bathroom break which was well deserved after a gripping set.
Raducanu nets a mid-court forehand on the opening point. But she responds again to hold to 15 and make an ideal start.
Raducanu 4-6, 7-5 Hercog* (*denotes server)
Hercog opens the game with a forehand drive volley, 15-0. Back-to-back errors by Hercog allows Raducanu to move to 15-30.
Raducanu drags a backhand just wide, she's visibly annoyed by that miss, 30-30.
Raducanu is pumped!! She drills a backhand down the line and Hercog can't get the volley back over. Set point.
Poor return by Raducanu. Too aggressive and the backhand flies long. Hercog double fault, second set point.
Raducanu is conservative on the second serve return and she's punished as Hercog attacks.
Hercog shanks a forehand, third set point for Raducanu. Game on! Hercog forehand goes long and we are going into a third set.
— wta (@WTA) October 26, 2021
Raducanu* 4-6, 6-5 Hercog (*denotes server)
Gorgeous backhand pass by Raducanu after dragging Hercog to the net. Massive forehand down the line by Raducanu, 30-15.
Clever lob by Hercog and Raducanu can't get the ball over the net. Raducanu forehand wide, break point Hercog.
Saved by Raducanu after a nice sliced backhand catches out her opponent. And she holds again, showing her mettle and moves again once more.
Raducanu 4-6, 5-5 Hercog* (*denotes server)
Serving to stay in the second set, Hercog moves to 30-15 with a forehand winner. Raducanu forehand long, 40-15.
Raducanu forehand return into the net, Hercog holds. On we go...
Raducanu* 4-6, 5-4 Hercog (*denotes server)
Nice change up by Raducanu to catch Hercog out with a drop shot, 40-15. She tries again with a drop shot but Hercog gets there and puts away a forehand winner.
Raducanu backhand down the line into the net, deuce. Another Raducanu drop shot but it's not good enough and Hercog whips a forehand down the line, break point. Great tennis by Raducanu and she draws the defensive error from Hercog.
Raducanu ace, just her second of the match. And she holds when Hercog nets a return. Great stubbornness.
Analysis by Molly McElwee from Cluj-Napoca
That was a much better game for Raducanu to go 4-3 up, her body language even changed as each point went her way and she held to love. Dad Ian liked that too, he was applauding louder than he has all match, and nodding his head encouragingly in Raducanu's direction as she went to her chair for the changeover. Significant moment in this match coming up - can she turn this around?
Raducanu 4-6, 4-4 Hercog* (*denotes server)
Raducanu would have been hoping to apply pressure but she can't, slipping to 40-0.
But a Hercog double fault and backhand into the net, reopens the door slightly.
Raducanu forehand winner, deuce. Big point coming up. Raducanu forehand down the line is just long, deuce.
Raducanu backhand long and Hercog holds.
Raducanu* 4-6, 4-3 Hercog (*denotes server)
Best service game of the match for Raducanu so far as she holds to love in quick time.
We're into the business end of the set now. A break of serve by Raducanu would be big.
Raducanu 4-6, 3-3 Hercog* (*denotes server)
Another angled forehand by Hercog drops just wide, 30-15. Big first serve ace by Hercog, 40-15.
Lovely combination of shots by Raducanu, great balance and control and she finishes with a forehand winner down the line.
But another error by Raducanu allows Hercog to hold again.
Raducanu* 4-6, 3-2 Hercog (*denotes server)
Very aggressive tennis by Hercog and she whips a forehand winner past Raducanu. Raducanu responds with a forehand winner of her own.
And Raducanu gets back level when Hercog's backhand goes long, 30-30. Raducanu forehand winner to close out the game. Big hold that.
Raducanu 4-6, 2-2 Hercog* (*denotes server)
Hercog double faults on the opening points. She then bizarrely misses the ball to allow Raducanu to move to 0-30.
Hercog forehand down the line into the net, two break points. Hercog saves the first with a volley winner into the open court. And the second when Raducanu puts a backhand return wide.
Another double fault by Hercog, deuce. Hercog shanks an overhead and it's break point Raducanu.
Raducanu forehand drifts just wide, deuce. And Hercog hangs on. Raducanu will be disappointed by that game.
Analysis by Molly McElwee from Cluj-Napoca
Ian Raducanu is sat alone, right in front of the press seats, and has been applauding his daughter's shot-making on occasion - but showed little reaction to her losing that first set. Raducanu let slip what looked initially to be a commanding lead. From 4-1 up she quickly spiralled and lost five games in a row to give away the set. Hercog did improve as it progressed, becoming increasingly more aggressive, but Raducanu's first serve and her forehand were missing the mark too much. She will need to be more consistent as the match goes on. The courts are playing relatively slow here at the BT Arena, and I wonder if that might be frustrating her in the way it appeared to at Indian Wells last month.
Raducanu* 4-6, 2-1 Hercog (*denotes server)
Big 'come on' cry from Raducanu as she hits an ace and makes it 15-15. Hercog return long, 30-15.
Hercog nets a forehand, 40-30, a bit of relief for Raducanu. But she double faults on the next point to make it deuce.
Big hold for Raducanu as Hercog nets a forehand.
Raducanu 4-6, 1-1 Hercog* (*denotes server)
Too many missed returns by Raducanu at the moment. Not giving herself a chance to get into rallies.
Easy hold to 15 for Hercog. Body language isn't great at this stage from Raducanu.
Second set: Raducanu* 4-6, 1-0 Hercog (*denotes server)
Raducanu needs to weather this storm and get back on track as soon as possible. A wide Hercog forehand makes it 40-15. And she holds when Hercog nets a forehand.
Raducanu 4-6 Hercog* (*denotes server)
Raducanu forehand return into the net, 15-0. Hercog forehand into the net, 15-15. Raducanu attempts a forehand down the line but nets it, 30-15.
Raducanu forehand return long, 40-15. Two set points. Raducanu backhand long and Hercog takes the set. Five games in a row for the Slovenian.
Raducanu* 4-5 Hercog (*denotes server)
There's been a shift in momentum and Hercog is starting to get on top. A forehand winner by Hercog makes it 15-30 but Raducanu responds with a lovely drop shot, 30-30.
Beautifully done by Hercog as she whips a forehand winner past Raducanu. Raducanu shanks a forehand wide and Hercog breaks. What a turnaround.
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Analysis by Molly McElwee from Cluj-Napoca
Hercog has been finding her stride the longer this match goes on, stepping into her shots and mixing things up with a couple of drop shots. But she didn't have to do much to break back - a bad game from Raducanu opened the door to her.Some errors and a double fault from the 18-year-old were enough to let slip her advantage in this first set. Will be interesting to see how Raducanu reacts now things are back on serve.
Raducanu 4-4 Hercog* (*denotes server)
A big 'come on' from Raducanu as Hercog's forehand goes long, 15-30. Hercog goes on the attack and her shot is too hot for Raducanu, 30-30.
Raducanu backhand into the net and Hercog holds to level the set.
Raducanu* 4-3 Hercog (*denotes server)
Raducanu finds herself at 0-30 for the second service game in a row after a couple of errors. She then hits her first double fault of the match and it's 0-40.
Raducanu forehand wide and we are back on serve. Not a good game by the 18-year-old.
Raducanu 4-2 Hercog* (*denotes server)
Good defence by Raducanu but Hercog remains composed and puts away a forehand smash from the baseline, 15-15.
More variety from Hercog as she hits another drop shot which Raducanu can't get back in play, 30-15.
Hercog overhead winner, 40-15. Rally of the match, great hustle by both players and Raducanu wins it with drive forehand. Raducanu return long and Hercog holds.
— wta (@WTA) October 26, 2021
Raducanu* 4-1 Hercog (*denotes server)
Back-to-back unforced errors by Raducanu opens the door for Hercog, 0-30. Hercog forehand return long, 15-30.
HUGE Raducanu forehand winner down the line. Hercog barely moved, 30-30.
Lovely wrong footing forehand by Raducanu, 40-30. And she holds by drilling a backhand winner down the line.
Raducanu 3-1 Hercog* (*denotes server)
Another double fault by Hercog, 15-15. Hercog takes the pace off her next first serve and draws the return error from Raducanu, 30-15. Hercog forehand long, 30-30.
But relief for Hercog as she wins the next two points to get on the scoreboard.
Raducanu* 3-0 Hercog (*denotes server)
Glorious backhand winner up the line by Raducanu, 15-0. Beautifully done by Raducanu again to push Hercog back and finish with a backhand winner again, 30-15.
Good wide serve by Raducanu and she holds to consolidate the break.
Raducanu 2-0 Hercog* (*denotes server)
Double fault by Hercog on the opening point. Raducanu gets down low but pulls a backhand wide, 15-15.
Two break points for Raducanu after back-to-back errors by Hercog. The Slovenian saves the first when Raducanu puts a forehand wide. Bad miss by Raducanu as she puts a backhand long, deuce.
More positive, attacking tennis by Raducanu and she finishes the point with a forehand drive volley, third break point. Big first serve by Hercog and Raducanu can't get the return back in play.
Fourth chance for Raducanu as Hercog nets a forehand. Another big first serve by Hercog. She's finding her serve exactly when she needs it.
Fifth break point for Raducanu after another Hercog forehand error. Smart tennis by Hercog to drag Raducanu forward with a drop shot and flick a winner into the open court.
Hercog forehand error, sixth break point for Raducanu. Hercog's forehand breaks down again and the British youngster finally breaks through.
First set: Emma Raducanu* 1-0 Polona Hercog (*denotes server)
Nice aggressive start to the match by Raducanu as she moves to 30-0. She goes long with a backhand on the following point but an excellent second serve draws another Hercog error.
And she holds to 15 when Hercog fails to return a big first serve.
Here we go!
About an hour later than scheduled, Raducanu walks onto court for her match with Hercog.
Raducanu wins the toss and opts to serve first.
Emma Raducanu takes to the court in an empty BT Arena - she faces Slovenia's Polona Hercog in the first round of the Transylvania Open pic.twitter.com/TMKT9PV7O9
— Molly McElwee (@molly_mcelwee) October 26, 2021
Delight for hometown player Cristian as she completes the comeback to win 3-6, 7-6, 7-6.
Next up? Raducanu...
'I heard many people talking about this - what she's done is amazing, it's huge to win at 18'
Our Molly McElwee spoke to Simona Halep this week in Cluj-Napoca and the two-time Grand Slam champion was full of praise for the teenager.
Read more about Raducanu's homecoming here.
After exchanging breaks early in the third set, we've entered the business end of the final set between Juvan and Cristian.
Juvan leads 5-4 and Cristian is now serving to stay in the match.
Raducanu is in good company
The Top 10 Tennis @instagram followers;
1. @serenawilliams 13.7m
2. @RafaelNadal 12.2m
3. @DjokerNole 9.4m
4. @rogerfederer 8.7m
5. @MirzaSania 8.1m
6. @MariaSharapova 4.1m
7. @naomiosaka 2.8m
8. @EmmaRaducanu 2.1m
9. @geniebouchard 2.1m
10. @delpotrojuan 1.8m
— Pavvy G (@pavyg) October 26, 2021
Ever since parting way with Andrew Richardson in the aftermath of her victory in New York, Raducanu has been without a full time coach.
Jeremy Bates stood in at Indian Wells and this week a skeleton team of physiotherapist Will Herbert, agent Chris Helliar and her father Ian will be supporting her.
But former American No 1 Tracy Austin believes rehiring Richardson would be a wise decision.
I just put myself in Emma’s shoes and I kind of know what it feels. Everything just comes at you so quickly.She fired her coach. That’s not something I think that she should have changed quite yet because there’s too many changes already. I think the foundation is so important – your family, your agent. Max Einsenbud is her agent, he’s been through it with Maria Sharapova who won at 17 so I think that should be helpful.These top coaches, [Raducanu's] dad said, are expensive. And yes they are, so I’d say go back to Andrew Richardson. I saw them at the US Open before each match, they seemed to have a nice camaraderie.She needs to have something that’s the same as that she had at the US Open because she’s stayed the same, she’s more confident, but everything around her has changed. So the parents they need to try to help her find that foundation again.Either go back to your old coach or really go for it and get someone who’s experienced.
The wait goes on...
Gutsy tennis from Jaqueline Cristian to save two match points and take the match into a third set.
It means at least another 30 minutes before Raducanu comes onto court.
— wta (@WTA) October 26, 2021
When is Raducanu due on court?
Raducanu's match is fourth on the match schedule today in Cluj-Napoca, not before 4pm.
And it will follow the ongoing clash between Kaja Juvan and Jaqueline Cristian. Juvan won the first set 6-3 and we are into a second set tiebreak as I type.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of the latest instalment of the Emma Raducanu story.
After a disappointing defeat at Indian Wells earlier this month and opting to skip the Kremlin Cup last week, the US Open champion returns to action today at the Transylvania Open in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
The Briton, who is the third seed, takes on experienced Slovenian Polona Hercog in her opening match.
Raducanu got a warm welcome in Cluj-Napoca, where she spoke to the limited crowd after a practice session over the weekend.
Her father has travelled over to be part of her team for the tournament and she is planning to visit her grandmother once her tournament is over.
Raducanu said: "I love Romania. I used to come once or twice a year to visit my grandmother, who lives in Bucharest, while growing up. It is an hour's flight from here.
"When the tournament is done, I'd love to pop over to Bucharest to be able to visit her. I haven't seen her for two-and-a-half years. The welcome I got was really, really nice and I always love coming back.
"The people here are really friendly, great humour and good food. I have great memories from this country. It is really nice to be back. The thing is I can understand like 80 per cent of Romanian. I don't want to big myself up.
"I just really struggle to find my words and vocab. When I got told about this thing at the end of the session, and I would be speaking to the crowd, I was thinking of my vocab at the changeovers.
"The more I spend time here, the more I immerse myself in the language, and I can pick it up reasonably fast."
Stay with us for build-up and game-by-game updates as Raducanu looks to get back to winning ways.