(ATTN: ADDS latest result in last 6 paras)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Sept. 21 (Yonhap) -- The 2021 U.S. Open women's singles champion Emma Raducanu moved into the second round at the lone WTA tournament in Seoul on Wednesday, as the British teenager pursues her first tour win since that stunning Grand Slam title.
The sixth seed Raducanu defeated Moyuka Uchijima of Japan in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4, in the first round of the WTA Hana Bank Korea Open at Olympic Park Tennis Center in Seoul. The match ended up being a lot closer than Raducanu bargained for, as she almost blew a 5-0 lead in the second set.
Raducanu took the first set in just 30 minutes and was hardly threatened. She held a double match point while leading 5-0 in the second set, before Uchijima fought back to win the next four games.
While serving for the match at 5-4, Raducanu went up 30-15 before a botched forehand return and a double fault moved Uchijima to a break point.
Raducanu dug deep and scored back-to-back aces to regain her advantage. She finally finished off Uchijima when the Japanese player's return off a strong serve went long.
Raducanu, once world No. 10, has plummeted to No. 77 in the rankings, as she has gone more than a year without a title. The 19-year-old was eliminated in the first round of her U.S. Open title defense last month.
Raducanu will take on the 460th-ranked Yanina Wickmayer in the round of 16. The two have never faced each other. Wickmayer, a five-time tour winner and former world No. 12, knocked off Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic in the opening round.
In Wednesday's last singles match at the center court, South Korean Han Na-lae lost to No. 2 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova in straight sets in the round of 16.
The 24th-ranked Russian barely broke a sweat in beating Han 6-1, 6-3 and reaching the quarterfinals.
Han, world No. 212, was the last remaining South Korean player in the singles. Han is the two-time doubles champion of the Korea Open, but no local player has won the singles title on home soil.
Han won the opening game of the match but then dropped the next six, losing the first set in just 22 minutes.
Han claimed the first two games of the second set before Alexandrova rallied to win the next five.
Down 5-2, Han held her serve to extend the match, but Alexandrova finished off the South Korean in the next game.