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Raducanu, Murray feel the frustration after second-round stumbles

  • Alex Sharp

It was a nerve-wracking but ultimately fruitless day for the British Grand Slam champions on Thursday. 

MORE: All the scores from Day 4 at AO 2022
Andy Murray, chasing a 50th Australian Open match win, came unstuck 6-4 6-4 6-4 courtesy of a complete performance by Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel.  

In the night session, US Open champion Emma Raducanu's resilience couldn't quite prevail over Danka Kovinic in an enthralling 6-4 4-6 6-3 tussle. 

There was a parallel for Daniel and Kovinic, both chasing their maiden Grand Slam third round showing as the underdogs.  

Kovinic was double-bageled by world No.1 Ash Barty last February at Rod Laver Arena, but managed to contain the main draw debutant's expansive game and awkward forehand slice to become the first player representing Montenegro to reach the last 32 of a major. 

"It was amazing. Tonight it was really a nice experience to play against Emma here and to make my first third round of Grand Slams after many years," said the world No.98, featuring in her 18th Grand Slam main draw. 

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"She had amazing result, winning Grand Slam in such a young age. Such a talent. I'm glad that I showed that I can play on high level so hopefully I can continue." 

As for Daniel, the 28-year-old hailed one of his finest career moments. 

"It's amazing, three sets straight against somebody who is obviously a legend," said the delighted Japanese right-hander, advancing to unchartered territory in his 17th major main draw.  

"I think this victory is up there with the one with (Novak) Djokovic in Indian Wells (2018), but I feel like today I played better, the kind of tennis I would like to aspire or keep it, like this is my level and keep building on that. That's the kind of goal I have." 

From Murray's perspective, the buzz word was "frustrating." The former world No.1, arriving at the Australian Open off the back of a final showing in Sydney, seemed poised for a deep run this fortnight. 

The five-time Melbourne finalist, who resurrected his career following hip resurfacing in 2019, was evidently despondent following his straight-sets dismissal.  

MORE: AO 2022 men's singles draw

Key chances went begging for the Scot in each set, whereas Daniel was tactically astute, altering the pace of shot and goading an off-kilter Murray to attack. 

In the prolonged rallies Murray kept chipping away, his typical gladiatorial spirit shining through, but the qualifier snuffed out four break points in his opening hold of the second set and never looked like surrendering his advantage.  

Murray's frustration was evident during - and after - the match

"I'm really, really disappointed. Very frustrated. Tough loss for me, that's for sure," admitted Murray, having never lost a Grand Slam match to a player ranked as low as the world No.120 Daniel.  

The 34-year-old denied that his rollercoaster five-set first round triumph over Nikoloz Basilashvili had any impact on the result. Instead, converting just two of 11 break points and gifting the Japanese player 49 unforced errors riled Murray. 

The Melbourne crowds would warmly welcome Murray to return in 2023. 

"Yeah. But not if I do what I did tonight too often this season. This is a really important year for me for a number of reasons, and I want to perform well in the big events. Tonight is not good enough in that respect," he said.

"Making second round of slams is not something I find particularly motivating." 

Raducanu's courage was exemplified, battling through the pain barrier from a deep blister on her right hand to put up a ferocious fight.  

The 19-year-old, in only her third Grand Slam, made a blazing start clattering the kind of toe-tapping returns that yielded the US Open title last September. 

From 3-0, gripping with the right hand became an issue for Raducanu, and the Montenegrin was able to take control with two textbook lobs for the opener. 

Raducanu forced a decider, but was clearly compromised

Improvising with squash-style forehand slices, 17th seed Raducanu remained in contention as Kovinic wrestled with how to approach her hampered opponent. The Brit connected with two rumbling forehands at 4-4 to squeeze into a decider, but as the match wore on the world No.98 ramped up the aggression and booked a battle with 2018 Melbourne finalist Simona Halep.  

"There were some people in my team that maybe didn't want me to play," revealed Raducanu, who hasn't been able to hit forehands or serves in practice the past few days due to the blister positioning. 

The teenage prodigy was intent on putting a positive spin on the evening. 

"I thought it was a pretty good learning experience for me. You know, I discovered tools about myself and my game that I didn't know I had before, that slice forehand is not so bad and I have some sort of hand skills. That was a positive surprise. 

"To get that second set with basically one shot, I can't believe it really," joked the world No.18. 

"I know that I can pull myself out of deep situations. Because I'm still young, I feel like I can learn a backhand, I can learn some sort of tactics, but it's quite hard to learn or teach someone that fight and grittiness to hang in there when things are pretty much all against you. So, I'm quite proud of that."