Raducanu feeling "reborn" as she starts 2024 season in Auckland
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Former U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu says she feels “reborn” as she prepares to play her first match of 2024 at the Auckland tennis classic.
The 21-year-old Raducanu has been out of action since April after wrist and knee operations and says she feels reinvigorated at the start of a new season.
“I feel reborn in a way, I feel fresh,” the 2021 major winner told reporters. “I feel ready, I feel happy, I feel excited.
“So overall I’m feeling positive and lighter. For two years after the U.S. Open I felt maybe a bit more like with a weight on my shoulders, but now I feel completely fresh.”
Raducanu suffered an ankle injury in Auckland last year but played through the pain at the Australian Open. By April she had come to realize she had to take time out for surgery.
“I was having wrist pains for five months before I came to Auckland so I was managing it, keeping it going and under wraps as much as I could,” Raducanu said. “I knew it was inevitable if I wanted to fix the problem but I wanted to keep going through the season.
“I’m feeling a lot better now, I’m feeling stronger. I feel fitter, more positive and refreshed so I’m really looking forward to this year.”
Raducanu will play a qualifier in the first round of the Auckland tournament on Monday or Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the 2023 U.S. Open champ Coco Gauff is drawn to play American compatriot Claire Liu in the first round as she begins her 2024 season and defense of the Auckland singles title.
After her major win at home, Gauff has become the standard-bearer for U.S. women's tennis but it is a mantle she bears reluctantly.
“Public publicity wise and ranking wise, technically I’m at the front, but all my counterparts are older than me, so I don’t really feel like that,” Gauff said. “So, I don’t feel like I’m leading them in any way or leading it.
"Maybe for (the media) it feels like that. But for us, or at least for me, I just feel like I’m just focusing on me. I’m not trying to lead anybody. If anything, I’m really learning from them.”
Caroline Wozniacki will play Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina in round one as she plays at the Auckland tournament for the eighth time. The 33-year-old made a strong comeback in 2023 after taking three years away from tennis to start a family.
“I was surprised by how high of a level I was playing at from the get go,” Wozniacki said. “It’s not easy coming back and playing matches after a month away and I had three and a half years away.
“I didn’t touch a racquet for three years and then I came back and started practising, got into the rhythm and quickly found my feet on the match court.”
AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis