‘A year ago I was on a mobility scooter’: Emma Raducanu happy to be injury free

Emma Raducanu claims to be feeling the fittest she has felt heading into the grass court season a year on from wondering if she would play again.

The 2021 US Open champion admitted to concerns over her future after undergoing surgery on both wrists and an ankle 12 months ago. But she starts her Wimbledon buildup on Tuesday in Nottingham at the Rothesay Open relieved to be injury free at last.

“I think it’s very easy for me to lose sight of where I was exactly a year ago,” she said. “You get so caught up in your own world that you want more and more and more, but I was on a [mobility] scooter scooting around and there was an element of doubt. To be healthy and to be here, I need to cherish it.

“It was pretty surreal because I couldn’t be on crutches because I’d had two wrist surgeries, so I had a cast on one hand, a splint on the other and my ankle was also pretty much immobilised. As someone who is so active it’s difficult to just shut your body down.

“Body-wise I feel really healthy now. 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’m healthy and just looking forward to starting playing.”

Raducanu raised eyebrows when she withdrew from the French Open qualifiers last month but she explained it was down to a desire to ration the amount of tennis she plays to protect her body.

“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,” the 21-year-old said. “It’s more about being proactive and not wanting to put myself in any unnecessary situations.

“I don’t need to rush and try to win the French Open; it wasn’t my goal this year. I had to prioritise where I wanted to target and it was just a good block for me to get some physical work done. I’d have loved some more time on the grass, although it was raining pretty much every day, so we were on hard [courts] a lot of the time.”

She took time out last week to attend a Dior fashion event at Drummond Castle – the brand for whom she became an ambassador in the wake of her grand slam win three years ago – alongside Hollywood A-listers Jennifer Lawrence and Anya Taylor-Joy. It was grist to the mill of those who believe she has been more about style than substance but she was at pains to stress the therapeutic benefits of the two-night trip to Perthshire.

“It was amazing just to have the change of scenery. I went for a run around Gleneagles and it was beautiful,” she said. “I love greenery, I love nature so that’s where I really feel recharged.”

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Ons Jabeur, last year’s Wimbledon runner-up who is the top women’s seed in Nottingham, said she was impressed after practising with Raducanu on Sunday. “She is practising really well. I’ve seen her hitting big balls,” said Jabeur. “I love how Emma plays, I love her personality and I honestly wish to see her succeed.”

Raducanu starts out on Tuesday against Japanese qualifier Ena Shibahara, the world No 274, in the first round with Jane O’Donoghue, the former LTA national coach for women, in her corner. Her current coach Nick Cavaday is unwell but she hopes to be reunited with him later in the week – if she progresses.

“Nick’s a great coach and we’re still very much together, it’s just unfortunate he couldn’t make it,” Raducanu said.

The Guardian