Early days yet but Raducanu sees new path to the top without 'backpack of rocks'

The 21-year-old Briton stunned the tennis world when she won the 2021 U.S. Open as a teenaged qualifier

By Reuters

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Britain's Emma Raducanu in action. - Reuters File
Britain's Emma Raducanu in action. - Reuters File

Published: Fri 12 Jan 2024, 2:36 PM

Emma Raducanu cautions that her comeback is in its early stages heading into the Australian Open but feels she has finally shed some of the mental baggage of her fairytale Grand Slam triumph at Flushing Meadows.

The 21-year-old stunned the tennis world when she won the 2021 U.S. Open as a teenaged qualifier but has struggled to live up to the expectations triggered by that astonishing feat.

The Briton enters her eighth Grand Slam main draw campaign at Melbourne Park this week after recuperating from operations on both wrists and an ankle, which sidelined her for the best part of eight months.

Raducanu played two matches as a wildcard in Auckland last week, winning one and losing one in a tight three-setter, which convinced her she was on the right track.

"Physically I feel good," she told reporters on Friday. "But I think that regardless of how good I may feel on the court on a particular day or in practice, I think to get that level of consistency is going to require more time.

"I know my level is there, I just need to keep working on it to make it more consistent. I think that will come with time in the gym, time on court, being able to play the calendar, not thinking about, 'Will I have to pull out from this one? Does that hurt?'

"I think my level, to be honest, is just too good not to come through if I put consistent work together."

Raducanu said she had a new appreciation of life as an athlete after spending so much time incapacitated after the surgeries.

"For a period of time, I had a scooter to move around. I couldn't text, anything," she recalled.

"It just puts things into perspective. The feeling of not being able to move your body, like to walk to the kitchen to get a snack, for example, I couldn't do it. And you miss it."

Raducanu has been handed a tough opening match at Melbourne Park against Shelby Rogers, the American she beat in the fourth round on her fairytale run to the 2021 U.S. Open final.

Such an explosive start to her career, especially representing a country which had gone so long without success in women's Grand Slam tennis, inevitably led to a huge amount of expectation being lumbered on her shoulders.

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Raducanu said she felt she had now shed some of that burden.

"I feel a lot lighter now than I did for a long time after the U.S. Open. I feel like I'm not playing with a backpack of rocks," she added. "I feel pretty light and happy."


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