Tennis: Big guns Emma Raducanu, Elina Svitolina fire on star-studded day at ASB Classic

By Jamie Wall for RNZ

The stars came out on day two of the ASB Classic at Stanley Street on Tuesday. In front of a packed crowd and under a perfect day, the top two seeds advanced, playing some scintillating tennis along the way.  

While Coco Gauff's 6-4 6-2 win over Claire Liu was to be expected, Elina Svitolina's 6-4 6-3 victory over wildcard and former world number one Caroline Wozniacki really could have gone either way.

Wozniacki certainly had her chances, and the final score doesn't really give her enough credit, but she certainly proved she hadn't come to Auckland to make up the numbers with a gritty display and demeanour post-match that couldn't hide her disappointment.

"I felt like I had a bunch of chances in the first set," the 2018 Australian Open champion said.

Elina Svitolina.
Elina Svitolina. Photo credit: Photosport

"I think I was up for 4-3 40-15, 4-4 40-15, 5-4 40-15... so, you know, if you don't take chances like that then you can't expect to be winning a set. So that was the disappointing part."

Despite the loss, Wozniacki showed that the competitive fire still very much is burning after a long period away from the game to start a family and now prepares for the Australian Open.  

Svitolina knew she had to pull out some of her best to advance to the second round.

"It's never easy to play a Grand Slam champion," the 29-year-old Ukrainian said.

"You know, I'm happy that she's back and I'm happy that we are both finding our level. Of course, someone has to win. So I'm happy that it was me today."

Wozniacki leaves a lot earlier than anyone would really have liked, a circumstance of an unfortunately lop-sided draw.  

Svitolina will now face Emma Raducanu in the second round and the winner of that match will likely run into former world number 21 Amanda Amisimova in the quarters.  

Meanwhile, in the top half of the draw, Gauff will face an unseeded opponent in the second round before potentially eighth seed Vavara Gracheva. 

The 2023 US Open champion described her victory over fellow American Liu as a match that "wasn't my best and it wasn't my worst. It played how I was supposed to play to win."

"The biggest thing is just going for my shots and being aggressive when possible," Gauff said.

While Gauff's win was straightforward, Raducanu did it the hard way to earn her first win on the tour since March of last year.  

She prevailed 6-3 4-6 7-5 in an up and down match over Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse, saying that while match points came and went, "it meant a lot."

"It's so different playing a match rather than playing in practice, the fitness, the speed of it... I'm very proud of the work I've done to put myself in this position, to be fit and healthy."

The 2021 US Open champion has had a wretched run with injuries over the last couple of years, so to see her get through three tough sets certainly brought a decent reaction from the crowd.

"I really like this court, how it looks. It's very picturesque. I like being closer to the fans, it's much nicer than some of the big stadiums where you're really far away from the front row.  

"It's a really cosy feeling... all around it's a great tournament."