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Nottingham Open: Emma Raducanu overcomes late wobble to beat Ena Shibahara in straight sets

British tennis star Emma Raducanu

Emma Raducanu defied a late wobble to get her grass-court season off to a winning start with a straight sets victory over Japan’s Ena Shibahara at the Nottingham Open.

Playing her first match since April, having opted to skip the French Open to focus on her fitness, the 21-year-old Briton beat Shibahara 6-1 6-4.

It came 713 days after her last appearance on grass, having had wrist and ankle surgeries in 2023 that ruled her out of Wimbledon.

“It’s been quite a few weeks since I last played a competitive match so I didn’t really know how it would go,” said Raducanu.

“I think my intentions were great from the start.”

Playing at the venue of her very first WTA match in 2021, months before her astounding run to the US Open title, Raducanu showed her intent early on by breaking Shibahara in the opening game at the Nottingham Tennis Centre.

Shibahara, predominantly a doubles player who won the French Open mixed title in 2022, was playing her first singles match on grass at Tour level but simply proved no match for Raducanu in the early stages.

After saving two break points, the British number six started to control play, breaking her opponent’s serve twice more to see out the first set.

She won seven games in succession, a run halted by a Shibahara hold to love, and looked to be running away with the match.

But, after going a double break up with a 5-1 lead, cracks started to appear in Raducanu’s performance.

Serving for the match, she conceded a break for the first time, before Shibahara then held to love for a second time.

At the third time of asking, the Japanese player broke again to wipe out Raducanu’s second-set advantage.

But that was where Shibahara’s resurgence ended as Raducanu immediately broke again, booking her place in the second round on her first match point.

She will face Daria Snigur next after the Ukrainian defeated compatriot and second seed Marta Kostyuk 6-3 6-3.

“I think I played a really good match,” added Raducanu.

“At the end I think inevitably if you’re 6-1 5-1 up something probably could go wrong. I was trying to not let it get to my head and just preparing and fighting for each point.

“I knew that even though I lost three games in a row I still had a chance to win the match.

“I’m very pleased with how I dealt with the circumstances today.”

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