By Eleanor Crooks, PA Tennis Correspondent, Melbourne
Emma Raducanu declared herself fit and ready to go at the Australian Open after a “team effort” to help her recover from an ankle injury.
The British number one’s participation in the first grand slam of the year was thrown into doubt last week when she rolled her left ankle during her second-round match at the ASB Classic in Auckland and pulled out in tears.
Raducanu has built up her time on the practice court during the week at Melbourne Park and has appeared to be moving well in her last few sessions.
She said: “In the match, obviously, at the time, you’re a bit worried about it. When you just go over, you don’t really know what’s going on.
“But we’ve been working very hard. It’s been a team effort to get me to this place. We’ve definitely expedited the process but I’m feeling really good and looking forward to getting out on the court. It’s just a huge, huge props to my team, really here and back home, who have helped get me to this place.”
Raducanu has physio Will Herbert, a central member of her team when she won the US Open, with her again and the pair have been putting in the hours off court to get the 20-year-old as ready as she can be for Monday’s clash with German Tamara Korpatsch.
The schedule was not kind, with the match first up on the opening day, although she could have had a much tougher draw than 27-year-old Korpatsch, who is ranked one place ahead of world number 75 Raducanu.
Raducanu experienced a string of injuries last year and insisted she is not too worried about her less-than-perfect preparation.
“I started practising midweek and we’ve been building it up pretty gradually,” she said. “But I think that I’ve not really played much tennis ever in my career so I’m kind of used to it. And I’m not stressed about lack of tennis that much.”
The injury was an unfortunate blow after Raducanu had spent an extended off-season working hard on her physical conditioning with Andy Murray’s former trainer Jez Green.
But she vowed not to let it affect the positive feelings she took into 2023 as she looks to establish a solid foundation and climb back towards the top of the game.
— LTA (@the_LTA) January 13, 2023
“I think that I was feeling in a really good place mentally,” she said. “In my tennis I was like, ‘Yeah, this is going well’. I think I was a bit shocked initially but then it didn’t take anything away from how I’m feeling about the season.
“And I feel really, really good actually. I just can’t wait to get out there on the court this year. I think that I’m setting things up really nicely with the way my team is looking at the moment. And I’m just buzzing to start and get going.
“I would say I’m definitely in stronger shape. I’m in a better condition physically. I did a lot of work and I’m very pleased with how it went physically.”
Another factor in Raducanu’s optimistic outlook is the presence of new coach Sebastian Sachs.
The Kent star lacked stability off court last year, with Torben Beltz proving a short-term appointment and a trial period with Dmitry Tursunov ending when the Russian decided to take up a role with Belinda Bencic.
Unfortunately, Raducanu has withdrawn from the tournament due to injury ❤️🩹 Thank you for the incredible play, Emma!
Congrats to Kuzmova who moves through to the quarter finals! #asbclassic #wta #tennis pic.twitter.com/EquRThki9b
— ASB Classic (@ASB_Classic) January 5, 2023
Ironically, 30-year-old German Sachs previously coached Swiss Bencic and Raducanu gave a glowing assessment of their early work together.
She said: “I really like Seb, I think that we’ve been doing some some great work. He’s very objective. He’s really experienced, actually. I just love the way that we’re working together and I really hope it lasts.”
Raducanu won her only previous match against Korpatsch on clay in Stuttgart last year, coming through in three sets.
“She’s an awkward player, bit tricky,” said Raducanu, who reached the second round on her debut here last year. “So it’ll be a good challenge to get used to her style and play. It’ll be a good test for me to see where I’m at.”