Emma Raducanu plays down injury fears in buildup to US Open defence

Emma Raducanu plays down injury fears in buildup to US Open defence

Emma Raducanu has played down any fears of an injury during her final days of preparation for her US Open title defence despite an emotional training session on Friday afternoon as she appeared to have a problem with her right hand. Two hours later, in her pre-tournament press conference, Raducanu attributed her struggles to blisters and a bad day at the office.

“I had a few small things, got a couple blisters, a bit of a niggle here and there,” said Raducanu. “It’s just one of those weird days where you feel a bit like nothing … I don’t know. You just feel a bit out of it. Can’t really explain myself, to be honest. I’m sure everyone in this room has probably had a day like that. Yeah, it is what it is.”

Having scheduled a two-hour practice session with Ekaterina Alexandrova, after about 40 minutes Raducanu stopped playing, moving to the side of the court, where she was in tears as she spoke with her coach, Dmitry Tursunov.

Raducanu resumed the practice but she continued to fiddle with her hand, prompting her to exit the court for a lengthier period with her physio, Will Herbert. During her absence, Tursunov kept the training session moving by hitting with Alexandrova.

Raducanu returned after a short period and continued the lengthy session without further problems, playing points with Alexandrova and serving at full speed until the end. Afterwards, Raducanu said she had nothing to report. “I have no concerns of, like, an issue, no,” she said.

Raducanu’s title defence will begin on Tuesday with a challenging opener as she faces a first-round match against the veteran Frenchwoman Alizé Cornet, who has already beaten Iga Swiatek, Simona Halep, Garbiñe Muguruza and Jelena Ostapenko across the first three grand slam tournaments this year. They will battle on Louis Armstrong Stadium at 7pm local time.

But Raducanu will take heart from her preparation after dismantling the former world No 1s Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka in succession in Cincinnati before falling in two tight sets to Jessica Pegula.

Raducanu said she had committed to swinging freely and attacking, a mentality that will be tested significantly by the gritty defence of Cornet and the long rallies she will hope to provoke.

As has become customary in Raducanu’s press conferences, another question about feeling pressure as she prepares to defend her title provoked a hint of irritation. “I think you guys are probably thinking more about pressure and ranking than me,” she said. “I think defending a title is just something that the press makes up. I’m just taking it one match at a time. Like, every single player is very capable in this draw. I just focus on what I’m doing, my own trajectory.”

After being ranked 150th, playing in the qualifying draw and initially having the interest of only a small group of British reporters, Raducanu returns to New York as the 11th seed and with a slightly more bulging purse. On Friday, Forbes listed Raducanu as the sixth highest earner in tennis over the past year, with estimated earnings of $21.1m (£17.8m). Raducanu says the biggest change in her life over the past year is the amount of people around her at all times.

“Before I could do whatever I wanted, be left to it,” she says. “I think that now more so, like, there’s a lot of people around me at all times. It’s something that just comes with what I do. Yeah, I think I adjusted to it throughout the year. But it’s part of the sport, part of what I do.”

As one recent grand slam champion reckoned with the consequences of their life-changing achievement, on Friday another expressed her frustration at how little things have changed since winning Wimbledon. Since this year’s tournament did not count towards the rankings after the WTA chose to remove points from the event in response to the All England Club’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players, Elena Rybakina has actually fallen in the standings since winning one of the biggest events in the world and she questioned the low court assignments she still receives.

“I would say if you go to play tournament. Me, as a Wimbledon champion, have to feel like, yes, now attention is on me, and I’m playing good. It was good. For example, in one tournament I go and play against the greatest champion, Muguruza, and we play on Court No 4. This is kind of like a question for me. I don’t think that this is fair. Just my opinion,” she said.