British No.1 Emma Raducanu missed two crucial set-point opportunities (Picture: Getty)
The British No.1 went into the match as an underdog and was attempting to beat a top 10 player for the first time but fell short at Melbourne Park in what was the first competitive meeting between the two young star players.
Gauff, 18, considered by many to dominate women’s tennis in the coming years, is bidding to win her maiden Grand Slam having finished as a runner-up at the French Open last year and will next face either China’s world No.28 Qinwen Zheng or fellow American Bernarda Pera in the third round.
Raducanu, 20, can be proud of her performance and despite her defeat, looks vastly improved in the early stages of 2023 after struggles with form and injury last year which saw her slip from world No.10 to her current rank of No.77.
The British star – who won the US Open in 2021 as a qualifier – will rue her missed break point opportunities, though, and blew six chances to break Gauff in the first set, converting just one. She also made a number of unnecessary unforced errors.
Raducanu looked strong in the second set and went 5-4 up after breaking Gauff for a second time in the match and producing some impressive service games but missed two crucial set-point opportunities as Gauff battled back to win it on a tie-break.
Gauff headed into the Australian Open in top form having lifted the ASB Classic title in the first week of January and has a good chance to go all the way, although she will need to overcome world No.1 Iga Swiatek in the quarter-finals.
‘I just told myself to hang in there,’ Gauff said on the court as she registered her 100th WTA main draw win.
‘Considering the circumstances I think both of us were nervous, it was an anticipated match since the draw came out.’
CoCo Vandeweghe, a two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist, watched the match as a pundit for the BBC and added: ‘Raducanu was doing all the right things. But sometimes tennis is a cruel sport.’