British tennis lover Emma Raducanu is not expecting anything from her campaign at the Australian Open, she says, but she is “just happy to be here and having a swing”.
Ever since she won the US Open in September, she has been Raducani’s career stuttered and collided next, thanks not only to her inexperience, but also to a serious accident – most recently the attack by Covid, which took her three precious weeks out of season.
They seem to be tennis gods that Raducanu pays for happiness in September, she enjoyed New York City, where her highest-ranked opponent was 12th-world actress Belinda Bencic. But she remains a happy presence, even when opportunities are piled up against her.
“Twelve months ago, I was right in my room studying for exams,” she told reporters. “I watched [the Australian Open] from far away. I am very grateful to have this opportunity to play here. We hope to come out and see the fans.
“Because of the last few months I have,” Raducanu added, “maybe I didn’t play as much as I would have liked, or trained as much. I feel like there’s actually no pressure on me. I feel like I’m glad I’m here and have a swing. I had to jump over some obstacles to play here, so I just want to go out, have fun and enjoy myself [myself] on the playground.”
Raducanu was positive at Covid in Abu Dhabi, where she traveled before Christmas to play at the Mubadala exhibition event. When she finally returned to the field, on Tuesday in Sydney, her lack of readiness was brutally exposed at 6-0, 6-1 in the hands of Elena Rybakina.
The result is worrying on paper, but then Raducanu came in with just six or seven hours of court time this season. Asked if Covid lacked endurance, she replied: “I don’t know because I haven’t been physically tested [against Rybakina]. The point was over so quickly.
“The challenge is to find a balance between wanting to get out and practice right after coming out of isolation,” she added. “But if you do it after you haven’t done anything in 20 days, you always start picking up the little things.
“I couldn’t practice that much the first week. But after Sydney, the match, it was really good to see where I was. Then I went out to sharpen up a few things on the training field. I think I’m gradually getting there. “
To add to the difficulty level of this Australian OP, Raducanu pulled Sloane Stephens – a super sleek American actress – as his opening opponent. It will usually be the only first round match in both draws to put together two former champions in grand slam tournaments.