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Preview: Emma Raducanu vs. Maria Lourdes Carle - prediction, form, head-to-head

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's Madrid Open first-round match between Emma Raducanu and Maria Lourdes Carle, including predictions, form and head-to-head record.

Having impressed on the clay in 2024 so far, Emma Raducanu seeks a strong start to her Madrid Open campaign when she takes on Maria Lourdes Carle in her first-round match.

The former US Open champion was scheduled to meet ex-world number one Karolina Pliskova in her opening tie, but the Czech's withdrawal means she now faces a more favourable draw against the Argentine qualifier.

Match preview

Emma Raducanu reacts at the Australian Open on January 16, 2024© Reuters

Banishing her injury demons and enjoying success at both individual and team level, Raducanu and Great Britain proved too hot for France to handle in the Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers, where the former harnessed her powers of recovery in three-set successes over Diane Parry and Caroline Garcia.

The 21-year-old then made a welcome return to the Stuttgart clay, where she has earned a number of statement victories throughout her fledgling career so far, and she added to that collection with beatings of three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber and Czech teenager Linda Noskova.

Raducanu earned herself a quarter-final date with world number one Iga Swiatek, who was initially overwhelmed by the Briton as she lost serve in the opening game, but the Pole's quality soon came to the fore as she prevailed 7-6[2] 6-3 to keep Raducanu waiting for WTA Tour crown number two.

Nevertheless, the former British number one has shot up more than 80 places in the WTA standings as she hits new heights in her post-surgery comeback - now sitting 221st in the world - and she is 9-6 for WTA Tour matches during a wholly positive 2024 campaign so far.

Raducanu only has one Madrid Open campaign under her belt so far from the 2022 season - where she entered as the ninth seed - and she comfortably defeated Tereza Martincova and Marta Kostyuk before coming unstuck against the latter's compatriot Anhelina Kalinina in round three.

A stern test of her Masters credentials against Pliskova was set to materialise in the first round, but owing to the 32-year-old's withdrawal from the main draw, Raducanu will now face more of an unknown in South American qualifier Carle.

The 24-year-old takes to the Spanish courts on the back of becoming a WTA 125 champion for the first time, also coming from behind to defeat Rebeka Masarova in the final of the Open Internacional Femeni Solgirones, representing the biggest honour of her embryonic career to date.

Also enjoying a rise up the rankings on account of her clay crowning, Carle currently boasts a career-high standing of 82 - having started the month outside of the top 100 - although she had to navigate two qualifying tests to make it to the main draw in Madrid.

However, the Argentine did not drop a set against either Taylah Preston or Astra Sharma and is now gearing up for just her second main-draw match in a Masters tournament following qualification to the first round in Miami, where she lost in straight sets to Brenda Fruhvirtova.

Carle may still be waiting for her Grand Slam main-draw baptism, but the 24-year-old will be flying the flag high for Argentina at this year's Paris 2024 Olympics, securing qualification for the global gathering by winning the women's singles silver medal at last year's Pan American Games.

Tournament so far

Maria Lourdes Carle:

First qualifying round: vs. Taylah Preston 6-2 7-5
Second qualifying round: vs. Astra Sharma 6-3 7-5

Head To Head

Wednesday's first-round contest will see Raducanu and Carle - who both play right-handed - clash at the top level for the very first time, although the latter has far more WTA experience under her belt.

Indeed, the soon-to-be Olympian has already competed at 398 matches at professional level - winning 264 of them - while Raducanu boasts 107 successes from 162 matches, giving her a marginally inferior win rate of 66% compared to Carle's 66.3%.

However, the Briton does boast the physical advantage over Carle, standing at 5ft 7in tall compared to her opponent's 5ft 5in frame.

SM words green background

We say: Raducanu to win in two sets

With a WTA 125 title now on her CV, Carle has proven that she is not to be counted out on clay, but Raducanu has also excelled on the surface and will no doubt come into Wednesday's encounter as the firm favourite.

The 21-year-old should certainly live up to that tag too, having displayed ferocious hitting and impressive returning against the best in the world in Swiatek, and a spot in round two should be hers without too much difficulty.

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Emma Raducanu reacts at the Australian Open on January 16, 2024
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