Emma Raducanu ‘just happy to have a swing’ at the Australian Open as British sensation gears up for first round
- Emma Raducanu insists she is just happy to be taking part in the Australian Open
- The young British star is getting ready for he first match on Tuesday
- She will be facing the 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens
US Open champion or not, Emma Raducanu will try and employ her New York philosophy as she tackles the Australian Open this week.
‘I feel like I’m just happy to be here and have a swing,’ she said as she considered playing the first round as the 17th seed and recent Grand Slam winner, rather than being a humble wildcard or qualifier.
Of course, it will be different this time and she will definitely not be on some court in the outer realms of Melbourne Park when she faces American Sloane Stephens on Tuesday.
Emma Raducanu will be one of the main attractions at the Australian Open this month
Raducanu will be one of the tournament’s main attractions for her first significant assignment in what may well be a year of harsh learnings, for the first part at least.
In reaching for the pressure valve release the teenager from Kent can point to two things. The first is that her preparations for the new season were badly disrupted by the Covid diagnosis she had in Abu Dhabi prior to Christmas.
The second is that she can look back on what she was doing this time last year, which was very different to what her peer group were up to at the time. ‘Twelve months ago, I was in my room studying for my exams,’ she said. ‘I was watching from afar. I just feel very grateful to have this opportunity to play here.’
Her initiation for the 2022 season was not a happy one, hammered by Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina in Sydney in less than an hour. She partly put that down to a lack of hours on court beforehand.
‘Because of the last few months I’ve had maybe I haven’t played as much as I would have liked to or trained so much. I feel like there’s actually no pressure on me. I had to jump a few hurdles to play here so I just want to go out there and have fun.
Raducanu insists she is just happy to get the chance to go out there and have a swing
‘It’s a challenge to find the balance of wanting to get out there and practise straight after coming out of isolation. The first week in Australia I wasn’t able to practise so much but after Sydney it was just good to see where I was. I’m getting there.’
As part of her new status, Raducanu has become a poster girl, with a new Nike advert addressing the extremities of the media and social media hype around her.
‘Distracted, Perfect, Fluke, Flawless, One-Hit Wonder’ flash up on a screen around her. It concludes with, ‘World Off. Game On’.
‘I think the video speaks for itself,’ she said, reluctant to get drawn into discussions about the opinions already being projected on her.
Nonetheless, the subject will be difficult to avoid and a recurring theme of this season is likely to be the correlation between her commercial activities and results.
The best answer will come in the form of solid progress and the first test comes against the 2017 US Open champion.
Stephens might not be the most reliable gauge either way as her level of performance is always unpredictable and she is fresh from marrying US international striker Jozy Altidore — once of Hull and Sunderland and now of Toronto — on New Year’s Day. However it plays out, the narrative will be fascinating.