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Emma Raducanu confident ahead of return at Auckland Classic: 'I'm a better tennis player than before injury break'

Emma Raducanu will make her competitive return to tennis at the Auckland Classic, one year on from exiting the same tournament in tears after rolling her ankle during a second-round match; watch Raducanu's return in Auckland live on Sky Sports

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Emma Raducanu believes she's a better tennis player than before she had her lengthy injury, as the former British No 1 targets a comeback to tennis in 2024

Emma Raducanu believes she's a better tennis player than she was before her enforced injury break which ruled her out of most of 2023.

The 21-year-old has had operations on both of her wrists and an ankle but will make her competitive return at the Auckland Classic on Tuesday, one year on from exiting the same tournament in tears after rolling her ankle during a second-round match.

The former US Open champion will face Elena-Gabriela Ruse in her first match back on court - likely at around 3.45am UK time on Tuesday morning - before then playing the winner of Caroline Wozniacki's match with second seed Elina Svitolina in the second round.

Emma Raducanu retired from her match in tears after rolling her left ankle
Image: Raducanu retired from her second-round match in tears after rolling her left ankle at last year's Auckland Classic

"Physically, in practice over the last few weeks, I'm hitting the ball really well," Raducanu told Sky Sports ahead of her return.

"I think I'm a better tennis player than I was before the break. The people around the LTA, for example, everyone can see that I'm training and playing really really well.

"And physically, I'm pushing weights, pushing things that I wasn't doing before. In my body, I actually have confidence in it, which is really nice and tennis-wise I feel good too.

"It's just about now putting it into a match, which is obviously completely different to practice. I know that will come in time though - as long as the level is there and improving."

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Raducanu, who won at Flushing Meadows in 2021, provided further insight into her injury struggles since and her difficult 2023 of rehab after multiple surgeries.

Emma Raducanu (credit: @emmaraducanu Instagram)
Image: Raducanu had surgeries on both her wrists and an ankle (credit: @emmaraducanu Instagram)

"I would play and then I had the patch where I couldn't play again for two months because of one of my wrists," Raducanu said. "That was really difficult because I felt like I was just getting going and then I stepped back again.

"It was hard, especially in the first few months. When you're so used to being active and moving around all the time, then to all of a sudden to have everything just cut off from you.

"I had like two wrists and one foot [injured] so I couldn't even use crutches. I basically had like a a scooter kind of thing and you would push yourself around with one leg.

"It was really difficult. I couldn't really go anywhere. I couldn't go to the supermarket; imagine being that immobile.

"I think it definitely reignited the fire to get back out there competing and made me appreciate just being healthy."

Raducanu is now ranked 298th in the world, having slipped from a career-high mark of No 10 in July 2022.

The former British No 1 will return to Auckland with a protected ranking, but she missed out on a wildcard for the Australian Open which begins on January 14 and will have to take a similar path as her 2021 US Open triumph, when she became the first player in the Open Era to win a major after coming through qualifying.

Emma Raducanu
Image: Raducanu lifted the US Open in 2021 at Flushing Meadows after coming through qualifying

Prior to that though is the challenge that awaits in Auckland, one which Raducanu is eager for, saying she fears no opponent.

"The field here in Auckland is extremely strong," she said. "I'm excited to play anyone. It doesn't bother me.

"I think, match-wise, it might take a while to adjust to the feeling of pre-match nerves or just match fitness. But, level-wise, I feel really good."

Raducanu added: "The [WTA] Tour was pretty interesting last year, from what I was told, because I didn't really follow it to be honest.

"Wimbledon was really a bit too close to home for me. I had to go there for a few days for some commitments but, other than that, I stayed far away... and the US Open as well.

"I did take my time away, but now I feel good. I feel refreshed."

The Auckland Classic begins on Monday, with Raducanu's comeback match to be shown live on Sky Sports. Stream tennis and more with NOW.

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