WTA

Raducanu explains Spurs connection as US Open champion eyes clay statement in Stuttgart

By Sports Desk April 18, 2022

Emma Raducanu has revealed the responsibility for her new-found affinity for Tottenham lies predominantly with her Spurs-obsessed support team.

Social media has been abuzz on Monday with photos and videos of the 19-year-old US Open champion training in a Tottenham jersey ahead of the Stuttgart Open.

The shirt even had her name and the number 10 emblazoned across the back, suggesting a particularly strong connection with the north London club. But it is not quite as it seems.

Raducanu, who was born in Toronto but raised in south-east London, said she has been heavily influenced by those close to her – although the presence of star duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min was also a consideration.

"My whole team basically are big Spurs fans and I feel like they're egging me on," Raducanu told reporters.

"They're desperately trying to get me behind them! I don't necessarily follow football much, but I feel like now, because of them, I'm feeling some sort of connection.

"I loved following the Euros last year and watching Harry Kane, who's obviously the England captain, and Son, I'm a big fan of him as well. So yeah, I like to dabble."

Raducanu is seeded eighth for her first-ever tournament on clay this week and will begin her campaign against Storm Sanders on Wednesday.

While Raducanu's immediate aim is undoubtedly building momentum, she sees this tournament as a chance to make a statement on a surface she believes will be her strongest in the long term.

"It's going to be an exciting clay season," she added. "I'm not sure how it is going to go. I keep telling everyone around me that one day clay is going to be my surface and I still believe that.

"I think game-wise on clay, especially when you're playing outside, you definitely need to be a lot more patient and build the point.

"You can't just hit a big shot, whereas on a hard court, you might be able to get a weak shot straight away. You really need to build the point a lot more, which takes a lot more energy and physical demand.

"You just have to be more crafty, I think, and I think it's a good lesson, especially for someone younger like me, to develop more skills. 

"I'm looking forward to spending more time on the clay as the years go by because I do like sliding and moving on it, and it's just about again being able to repeat over and over."

There were two first-round matches played in Stuttgart on Monday, with Liudmila Samsonova claiming a double bagel when beating Chloe Paquet 6-0 6-0, while Ekaterina Alexandrova defeated Shuai Zhang 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (8-6).

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    Nick Kyrgios labelled Stefanos Tsitsipas "soft" and defended his on-court antics after the Greek called him a "bully" in the aftermath of their ill-tempered Wimbledon clash.

    Kyrgios recovered from one set down to post an impressive 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 6-3 7-6 (9-7) win over the fourth seed, setting up a last-16 tie with Brandon Nakashima with a scintillating performance on No. 1 Court.

    But the contest was not without controversy, with Kyrgios frustrating Tsitsipas by calling for him to be defaulted after the Greek narrowly missed a spectator when firing a ball into the crowd at the end of the second set.

    The Australian then labelled the umpire a "disgrace" during an extraordinary outburst, and his antics seemed to get under the skin of Tsitsipas, who was deducted a point for sending another ball towards the spectators before appearing to hit a couple of shots directly at Kyrgios.

    While Kyrgios praised his opponent – with whom he played doubles at Wimbledon three years ago, as "a hell of a player" in his post-match interview, neither player was in the mood for niceties in their respective news conferences.

    First up was Tsitsipas, who accused Kyrgios of "constant bullying".

    "That's what he does," the world number five said of his rival. "He bullies the opponents. He was probably a bully at school himself.

    "I don't like bullies. I don't like people that put other people down.

    "He has some good traits in his character, as well. But he also has a very evil side to him, which, if it's exposed, it can really do a lot of harm and bad to the people around him."

    Kyrgios, who has now claimed four wins in five career meetings with Tsitsipas, responded to that criticism shortly thereafter, alleging the Greek was not popular in the locker room and saying his inability to handle such matches would hold him back.

    "He's that soft, to come in here and say I bullied him? That's just soft," Kyrgios said. 

    "We're not cut from the same cloth. If he's affected by that today, then that’s what's holding him back, because someone can just do that and that's going to throw him off his game like that. I just think it's soft.

    "I don't know what to say. I'm not sure how I bullied him.

    "He was the one hitting balls at me, he was the one that hit a spectator, he was the one that smacked it out of the stadium.

    "I didn't do anything. I was actually like… apart from me just going back and forth to the umpire for a bit, I did nothing towards Stefanos today that was disrespectful, I don't think. I was not drilling him with balls.

    "I feel great, the circus was all him today. I think if he's making that match about me, he's got some serious issues, I'm good in the locker room, I've got many friends, I'm actually one of the most liked [players]. I'm set.

    "He's not liked, let's just put that there. I'm good, I feel good."

    Kyrgios is just one win away from matching his best run at Wimbledon, having reached the quarter-finals in 2014 with a win over Rafael Nadal before being beaten by Milos Raonic.

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    Kyrgios produced an outstanding display to rally after losing the first set on No. 1 Court, eventually prevailing 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 6-3 7-6 (9-7) in an incident-filled match.

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    Kyrgios could be heard calling the umpire a "disgrace", and then, after Tsitsipas had been let off with a warning, the unseeded talent asked: "Are you dumb?"

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    "What happened to Novak when he hit the ball into a girl? She was injured. You can't hit a ball into the crowd and hit someone and not get defaulted."

    But the drama was far from done as Tsitsipas flew into a rage of his own early in the third, having been hit with a point deduction for wildly firing another ball towards the crowd – but hitting the scoreboard instead – after Kyrgios produced a mischievous underarm serve when holding to love.

    The fourth seed's frustration was evident as he then appeared to hit a couple of shots right at Kyrgios to boos from spectators, who vociferously cheered every point for the Australian.

    But after producing some outstanding tennis to end the aggravated Tsitsipas' hopes of winning a first grand slam title, Kyrgios said he had no problems with the Greek, whom he played doubles with at Wimbledon in 2019.

    "Honestly, it was a hell of an atmosphere, an amazing match, I honestly felt like the favourite coming in; I played him a couple of weeks ago, but I knew it was going to be a tough match," he said.

    "He's a hell of a player, I had my own tactics out there – he knows how to play me, he's beaten me once, and obviously I've had success, so it was a hell of a match.

    "I'm just super happy to be through, he was getting frustrated at times and it's a frustrating sport, that's for sure. I know you all think you can play, but it's very frustrating, whatever happens on the court, I love him."

    Kyrgios now holds a 4-1 head-to-head lead over Tsitsipas, having also got the better of the world number five on the grass at the Halle Open earlier this month.

    The 27-year-old also previously courted controversy during his run to the fourth round when he spat in the direction of a "disrespectful" fan during his first-round win over Paul Jubb.

    But Kyrgios claimed his antics serve to drive interest in the sport, adding: "It's amazing, everywhere I go I seem to have full stadiums.

    "The media loves to write that I'm bad for the sport, but clearly not."

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    Nadal saw off Sonego in straight sets and was in complete control for much of the third-round match, only briefly losing his composure when the Centre Court roof was closed following a lengthy plea from the 27th seed.

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    "I feel very sorry if I bothered him – I just wanted to tell him something. I did it in a nice way, and I feel now really bad if I bothered him. I'm sorry for that.

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