EMMA RADUCANU faces the toughest Slam opponent of her career next week – as a US Open champion.
Although Sloane Stephens has dropped to 68th in the world, the 28-year-old American won the New York Slam title in the fall of 2017 – four years ago. Raducanu is the Queen of Flushing Meadows.
The pair will meet in the first round of the Australian Open and it will be the first time Raducanu has met a major winner in three Slams.
And all eyes will be on Raducanu’s form and fitness followed her modestly 6-0 6-1 by Kazak Elena Rybakina in the first round of Sydney International.
The 19-year-old from Kent, seeded 17 in Melbourne, had contracted Covid-19 before Christmas and had only played once in two months.
Novak Djokovic was named in the male draw – despite the risk of deportation.
The Serb – the defending men’s singles champion in Melbourne – was held to a draw by compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.
The 34-year-old tennis player is trying to win Slam No21 and surpass the record that is currently being shared with opponents Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.
Overnight, however, Djokovic waited to find out if immigration minister Alex Hawke had tried to kick him out of the country because of a visa error.
The world’s No 1, who has not been vaccinated, has won a court appeal to stay in the country after border officials failed to follow proper procedure.
But later it was discovered that there was a conflict with his application for admission.
If his visa is revoked again and he is eventually deported from Oz, then he will face the prospect of being banned by Australia for 3 years.
The Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the 2022 season, kicks off at Melbourne Park on Monday.
In the draw – delayed by more than an hour – Andy Murray was paired with 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.
This comes a day after the Scotsman defeated the Georgian in the Sydney Classics.
British No 1 Cameron Norrie will face American Sebastian Korda – who is self-isolating with Covid in Adelaide – while 24th seed Dan Evans takes on Belgium’s David Goffin.
Murray and Evans will meet in the final in Sydney if they win their respective semi-finals on Friday.
Australian world No 1 Ash Barty begins his quest for a first home Slam match against qualifying – while Nadal against the hairless American Marcos Giron.
Heather Watson, who had the same draw as Raducanu, will face Egypt’s Mayar Sherif in the first match.
https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/17319088/emma-raducanu-australian-open-sloane-stephens/ Emma Raducanu awards nightmare Australian Open draw to former US Open champion Sloane Stephens after Sydney struggles