Emma Raducanu blasts ‘slippery’ court as ankle injury sparks Australian Open fears
Emma Raducanu blamed slippery indoor courts for an ankle injury which forced her to retire from the ASB Classic in tears and may jeopardise her Australian Open prospects.
After commandeering the opening stages of her second-round match against Slovakia's Viktoria Kuzmova, the British No 1 rolled her left ankle during a rally at 5-5 in the second set. After losing the set, she summoned the trainer to assess the damage and, despite briefly attempting to play on, had to concede at 6-0 5-7.
The match had been postponed from Wednesday due to persistent rain in Auckland and, with the stormy weather not letting up, organisers opted to move matches to the indoor practice facilities on Thursday. Raducanu did not appear affected by the unglamorous setting, not unlike the courts she grew up playing on at Bromley Tennis Centre, but she was not happy with the standard of the "very slick" playing surface.
"It's difficult to take," Raducanu, 20, said on stuff.co.nz post-match. "I've put a lot of physical work in the last few months and I've been feeling good and optimistic. So to be stopped by a freak injury, rolling an ankle is pretty disappointing, in the first week as well. I thought I was playing some pretty decent tennis.
"The courts are incredibly slick, like very slippery, so to be honest it's not a surprise that this happened to someone. It's out of my control and after a very long day of waiting around. But we'll assess over the next few days and see what the next steps are."
Her frustration was understandable. Injury misfortunes blighted the former US Open champion's 2022 season, forcing her to retire from four tournaments. This latest "freak" injury - in just her second match of the year - could not have come at a worse time, considering the first major of 2023 begins in Melbourne in just 11 days.
Former US Open champion Raducanu walked onto the shadowy court in Auckland just before 9pm local time, with curtains separating her and Kuzmova from the matches on neighbouring courts. There were no crowds either, just her team - new coach Sebastian Sachs and physiotherapist Will Herbert - and a handful of spectators sitting on plastic garden furniture to watch.
She appeared to adapt to her surroundings well though and got off to a flying start, taking the first set in just 22 minutes. She was playing aggressive tennis despite hard-hitting Kuzmova - a former top 50 player - upping her level in the second set. Raducanu had just broken back to even up the score when the tournament-ending injury occurred.
If it is serious, it may well undo two months of hard conditioning work she put in from October to December with Andy Murray's former fitness coach Jez Green.
Regardless, it is an unwanted setback ahead of the first major of the year and comes just days after Raducanu voiced her aims of staying healthy this year.