Auckland | Raducanu feeling relaxed ahead of opening match in New Zealand

The WTA 250 ASB Classic begins in Auckland on New Year’s Day when Britain’s Emma Raducanu returns to competitive play.

I’m looking forward to playing tournaments and just getting that feel again. I’m also looking forward to putting together good training weeks... Being healthy and being consistent is really important. Previously, I was training, but I always had these niggles. By doing the work physically on the court you can make those things less frequent. You’re better suited for more consistent results. Emma Raducanu

“I feel reborn in a way,” the 21-year old told reporters ahead of her first match in more than 8 months. “I feel ready, I feel happy, I feel excited.

“Overall, I’m feeling very positive — and lighter. I think for two years after the US Open, I felt maybe a bit more weight on my shoulders. But now I feel completely fresh.”

At just 18, she had played only 6 matches at the Hologic WTA Tour level and was ranked 150 in the world when she entered the qualifying draw in New York, and proceeded to win all her 10 matches at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in straight sets to become the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open Era.

She became an overnight sensation and a highly marketable young star, signing high-end endorsement contracts worth millions as her Instagram followers soared past two million.

Since winning the US Open title, though, her record slipped a middling 24-27, and she didn’t come close to winning another tournament.

In April she underwent 3 surgeries to deal with niggling injuries after playing just 10 matches in 2023, and she enters the new season ranked 298.

In an exclusive interview with WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen, Raducanu discussed her rehabilitation after three surgeries on her right ankle and both wrists.

“I had casts, braces on my hand and foot,” Raducanu said. “It was really difficult to do anything, really.

“As soon as I was able to start doing fitness and tennis again it was really nice — just sweating. Having the time away, it only made me appreciate so much more playing tennis and moving your body.

“I never had the fear of holding back. I would go full, and then I had a few hiccups on my recovery road. I would go for it. Physically I feel good. I did a lot of work in the gym. I really trust my body right now.”


Elina Svitolina, Coco Gauff and Caroline Wozniacki headline the ASB Classic

asbclassic.co.nz

In Auckland, Raducanu has received a wild card into the 32-player draw and will face Elena-Gabriel Ruse, a Romanian qualifier ranked 128 in the world in the 1st-round, so should get a sense of where she is at almost immediately. They have never played each other before.

Her 2nd-round opponent could be the winner of the blockbuster 1st-round match between 2nd-seeded Elina Svitolina from Ukraine and Danish former No 1 Caroline Wozniacki, two mothers who returned to the Tour last year.

“I’m looking forward to playing tournaments and just getting that feel again,” Raducanu said. “I’m also looking forward to putting together good training weeks.

“I think that’s something I’ve really noticed in the past few months — how much your game can actually improve by training the right [way].

“Being healthy and being consistent is really important. Previously, I was training, but I always had these niggles. By doing the work physically on the court you can make those things less frequent. You’re better suited for more consistent results.”

A star-studded bottom quarter highlights the main draw in Auckland, as the winner between Svitolina Wozniacki could potentially face Raducanu in the 2nd-round.


Coco Gauff is the defending champion in Auckland

asbclassic.co.nz

Meanwhile, defending champion Coco Gauff, the 2023 US Open champion, is the No 1 seed at the top of the draw, and will attempt to become the first back-to-back Auckland champion since Julia Goerges in 2018 and 2019.

Down in the 4th quarter there are more big names where another of last year’s successful come-back players, 2021 Roland Garros finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, will take on Amanda Anisimova in the 1st-round.

Anisimova is another player making a return in Auckland after 8 months off tour and the 2019 Roland Garros semi-finalist from the USA will be playing her first match since Madrid in April.

At the very top of the draw in the first quarter, Gauff will face fellow American Claire Liu, ranked 98, in her opening round. Gauff won their only previous meeting, at Indian Wells in 2022, in straight sets.

Another American, World No 32 Emma Navarro, leads the 2nd quarter as the No 4 seed, and she will meet teenager Linda Fruhvirtova in the 1st round. The Czech won their only prior meeting, on the clay courts of Charleston in 2021.

Also in the 2nd quarter is Rebeka Masarova, who reached her first career final in Auckland last year before falling to Gauff, plays No 7 seed Petra Martic in the 1st-round.

Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko heads up the 3rd quarter as the 3rd seed, and will meet Sachia Vickery, am American qualifier, in the 1st-round.




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