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Emma Raducanu beats Elena-Gabriela Ruse in return to tennis to set up Elina Svitolina match

After three surgeries (both wrists and left ankle) and eight months out, Emma Raducanu made a winning return to tennis vs Elena-Gabriela Ruse in the first round of the ASB Classic in Auckland; the 21-year-old Brit will next face second seed Elina Svitolina in last 16

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It was an emotional moment for Emma Raducanu as she made a winning return to action, defeating Romania's Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-3 4-6 7-5.

Emma Raducanu made a winning return to tennis after eight months out following injuries, defeating Romania's Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-3 4-6 7-5 to set up an ASB Classic last-16 tie vs second seed Elina Svitolina.

Having stormed out to a strong start to take the first set 6-3, Raducanu was pegged back in the second as the hard-hitting Ruse pushed on to claim the set 6-4.

Despite running out of challenges midway through the third set, failing to take her first three match points and seeing a 5-2 lead slip to 5-5, Raducanu crucially claimed three breaks within it, kicking on to eventually claim the match at the third time of asking on her own service game.

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There was some spectacular hitting from Raducanu on her tennis return during her clash with Ruse

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Raducanu hit an impressive forehand winner in her clash with Elena-Gabriela Ruse at the ASB Classic in Auckland

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Raducanu gets a crucial double-break of serve in the deciding set against Elena-Gabriela Ruse in Auckland.

Raducanu, who last played on the WTA Tour in Stuttgart in April, has been absent after surgeries on both wrists and her left ankle.

Her absence has seen her drop to 298th in the world, while it was at the ASB Classic in Auckland last year that Raducanu departed in tears after suffering an ankle injury.

The 21-year-old missed out on a wildcard for the Australian Open which begins on January 14, meaning she will have to reach the tournament via qualifying - as she did on her run to a historic title at Flushing Meadows in 2021.

Raducanu has failed to progress past the second round of a Grand Slam since her New York triumph.

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Following her 6-3 4-6 7-5 victory over Ruse, Raducanu says she is 'having a blast' and shared her joy at being 'able to move my body'

"It's difficult after having such a long hiatus but I'm grateful to be healthy, I'm grateful to be able to move my body and not bedridden or in a wheelchair," Raducanu said on court after victory in two hours and 27 minutes.

"It's pretty amazing to just be out here and playing and 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.

"Thank you to everyone for coming out and staying late and cold, I really appreciate the support throughout.

"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."

Former No 1 Caroline Wozniacki started the New Year with a loss, going down 6-4 6-3 to second-seeded Svitolina.

In a hard-hitting match, there were five service breaks in the first set and Svitolina gained a vital third break in the 10th game.

She then broke Wozniacki to lead 3-1 in the second set and again in the eighth game before serving out the set and match.

Wozniacki made a strong comeback in 2023 after being away from tennis for more than three years. She looked impressively fit at the start of the new season and her double-handed backhand and running forehand were still weapons.

US Open champion Gauff begins 2024 with victory over Liu in Auckland

US Open champion Coco Gauff started her 2024 season and her defence of the Auckland Tennis Classic title on Tuesday with a rusty-at-times 6-4 6-2 win over American compatriot Claire Liu.

Gauff used her powerful forehand well but took time to find her range, over-hitting at times in the first set. She raced to an early 4-0 lead then dropped serve, served for the first set at 5-2 and lost serve again to love before composing herself to overcome a tenacious performance by Liu.

Gauff defeated Aryna Sabalenka in the US Open final 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 for her first major title last year.

On Tuesday, Gauff mostly stuck to the baseline while Liu came more often and effectively to the net. But as Gauff settled in and found her service rhythm, she took the second set more convincingly in 35 minutes, the match in 82 minutes.

"Happy to start off the season with a win," Gauff said. "I needed to be tested.

"I feel like I played well today for the first match in a while and I'm happy with my level. Obviously there are things I can improve but I did what I needed to do to win."

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