MELBOURNE — Emma Raducanu will enter the Australian Open a little undercooked after pulling out of a second exhibition match in three days.
Raducanu was due to play at the Kooyong Classic on Thursday against Paula Badosa, also returning from injury, but it was confirmed on Wednesday that she had withdrawn.
The 21-year-old had also cancelled a mooted exhibition match against Donna Vekic at the Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday, citing soreness the morning after Monday’s practice session.
But i understands Raducanu’s participation in the first grand slam of the year is not in jeopardy, with her two withdrawals said to be precautionary rather than enforced.
It does mean though that she will have played just two matches, both in Auckland last week, since April last year before entering the Australian Open first round, which starts on Sunday.
Raducanu will learn her first-round opponent – which as an unseeded player could be any one of the 127 other players in the tournament, from Iga Swiatek to the last qualifier – in Thursday’s draw at 2am UK time, and will hope that she gets lucky enough to start later in the week.
The first round will get underway on Sunday for the first time ever, but will stretch over three days, meaning Raducanu might be afforded until Tuesday to be fit enough to compete.
It has already been a long journey back for the 2021 US Open champion who underwent surgery on both wrists and an ankle last summer, ruling her out of the second half of the year.
Her rehabilitation was troubled too with several setbacks keeping her off court for days at a time, but she insists she is a better player now that before she won the US Open.
And John McEnroe says he hopes she has viewed the process of rebuilding her fitness as a challenge to be relished.
“This may give her a whole new perspective. In a way she can start over,” says McEnroe, who was only 20 when he won his first grand slam title.
“Hopefully, she’s just enjoying the process of what it takes to try to do something big. She knows what it’s like to win something, so she’s got that going for her.
“No player wants to do something spectacular, and then never do it again. So obviously, she’s going to put pressure on herself to do well and hopefully, she won’t put too much pressure. There’s that fine line between pushing yourself and then being able to accept, ‘I’ve done what I can, now just go out there and play’.”