Emma Raducanu had been ruled out since April amid injury problems and surgery (Picture: Getty)
Emma Raducanu has registered victory in her first match in eight months with a 6-3 4-6 7-5 win over Elena-Gabriela Ruse in Auckland – and the British star is targeting an ‘injury-free’ season after playing just 10 times in 2023.
The 21-year-old, ranked as high as world No.10 in 2022, been ruled out since April amid injury problems and subsequent surgery but made her WTA Tour return at the Auckland Classic having been handed a wildcard as she battled past Romanian world No.134 Ruse.
The 2021 US Open champion, who has dropped to world No. 301, eventually won over three sets in a match that lasted two hours and 27 minutes having let slip a 5-2 lead in the third set and missing two match points at 5-3 and she will next face Ukrainian second seed Elina Svitolina.
Raducanu’s clash with Svitolina will be an interesting test ahead of the Australian Open, which begins on January 14 – with Raducanu currently set for qualifying unless there are any more withdrawals – although there is still time for her to be handed one of the last four wildcard spots if she does not secure direct entry.
‘It’s pretty amazing to just be out here and playing,’ Raducanu said after her win over Ruse to book her spot in the last 16. ‘I’m just really happy to be back on the tour and can’t wait to start this season and carry on hopefully injury-free and healthy.
‘It’s difficult after having such a long hiatus, but I’m grateful to be healthy, grateful to be able to move my body, not bed-ridden and in a wheelchair.
‘It was a match with ups and downs and always difficult playing a friend in Gabi. I love being back in Auckland, I’m having a blast so far, so thank you and see you in the next round.’
Emma Raducanu will next face Ukrainian second seed Elina Svitolina (Picture: Getty)
Despite an injury-hit 2023, Raducanu showed glimpses of her quality at Indian Wells in March with a run to the fourth round, only losing to top-seed Iga Swiatek.
Raducanu is still yet to confirm a new coach or the make-up of her team after she parted ways with Sebastian Sachs in the summer.
Meanwhile, on the ATP Tour, 22-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal has also made a long-awaited return from injury, losing in the doubles at the Brisbane International on Sunday in what was his first match in just under a year.
‘It’s difficult after having such a long hiatus.’