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Hello. Rare indeed are the opportunities to cover a match between the world No 209 and and No 274, but where Emma Raducanu, the 2022 US Open champion, is concerned, normal rules do not apply. Raducanu has not played competitively since April, preferring to skip Roland Garros to ensure her wrists, each of which she had surgery on last year, are Pinball Wizard-like strong and supple to withstand the heavier tennis balls of the summer grass-court swing. She started well in her last tournament, the Stuttgart Open, beating the veteran 2018 Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber in the first round and Linda Noskova in the next. There was no disgrace, either, in her elimination by Iga Swiatek, having taken the world No1 to a tie-break in the first set and, given where she was last year, namely needing a mobility scooter to get around, she is eager to put her progress in 2024 in perspective.

“It was pretty surreal [last year] because obviously I couldn’t be on crutches because I’d had two wrist surgeries,” she said. “So I had a cast on one hand – I’d timed it so I didn’t have two casts at the same time, obviously – a splint on the other and my ankle was also pretty much immobilised, in a splint and stitches.

“So I would just scooter around with one knee. As someone who is so active it’s difficult to just shut your body down. I think it’s very easy for me to lose sight of where I was exactly a year ago because it is pretty much a year ago to this day, this month.

“You get so caught up in your own world that you want more and more and more. But a year ago I was on a scooter scooting around and I didn’t know – there was an element of doubt. To be healthy and to be here, I need to cherish it. So thanks for reminding me to do that. Body-wise, physical-wise, I feel really healthy. I feel really strong. I’ve done amazing work with my trainer over the last few months, since surgery.

“I’m in a really fit place. I think my wrists are actually in a better position than they ever were.So there’s zero doubt or apprehension whether I’m hitting the ball or designing my schedule.”

Her opponent, the Japanese American Japan’s Ena Shibahara, is a 26-year-old right-handed doubles specialist who had to win two qualifying rounds to get to this stage. Having won the mixed doubles at the French Open in 2022 with Wesley Koolhof, Shibahara and Shuko Aoyama were beaten finalists at the 2023 Australian Open and she made the third round with new partners in the women’s doubles at both the Australian and French Open this year. In February, however, she did win her maiden singles championship on the ITF Circuit, beating Iva Jovic to the W35 title in Texas to break into the top 400 in singles for the first time in her career. 
 



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