Familiar faces return to grand-slam court for Australian Open

By Sports Desk January 10, 2024

Several familiar faces will return to grand-slam action at the Australian Open after extended breaks.

Injury has unfortunately postponed Rafael Nadal’s slam comeback but fellow former champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber return along with Britain’s Emma Raducanu.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the returning players.

Naomi Osaka

Osaka’s opening-round match in Brisbane last week was her first since September 2022. It was last January when the Japanese player revealed she was expecting her first child and would miss the season. Baby Shai arrived in July and the break appears to have given Osaka, who missed major chunks of 2022 because of her mental health, a new perspective and a fresh hunger for the sport. Melbourne Park’s courts suit the 26-year-old well, and the 2019 and 2021 champion will be a name other players will hope to avoid in the draw.

Emma Raducanu

 

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While not sidelined for as long as Nadal or Osaka, Raducanu has not played a grand-slam match since a second-round loss to Coco Gauff in Melbourne 12 months ago. After battling consistent niggling injuries since her US Open triumph, in May the 21-year-old opted to have surgery on both wrists and one ankle and was not seen on the match court again in 2023. While strong opinions abound regarding Raducanu’s approach to her career, her talent is not in doubt and the biggest question mark remains whether her body can hold up to the rigours of professional tennis.

Angelique Kerber

Tennis fans could have been forgiven for thinking former Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open champion Kerber had retired. Instead, after being off the tour since Wimbledon 2022 and nearly a year after the birth of daughter Liana, the German is back. Kerber will turn 36 this month and her grand slam winning days are surely behind her but she joins a growing gang of mums on tour.

Marin Cilic

Another veteran on the comeback trail is 35-year-old former US Open champion Cilic. The Croatian, a finalist in Melbourne in 2018, only played two matches in 2023 because of a knee injury.

Amanda Anisimova

A tennis prodigy who reached the French Open semi-finals as a 17-year-old in 2019, Anisimova’s career understandably stalled following the untimely death of her father and coach Konstantin later the same year. In May last year, the American, who is still only 22, announced she was taking an indefinite break from the sport, citing burnout and mental health issues. “I slowed my life down and that’s something that I really needed,” Anisimova told the WTA on her return in Auckland last week.

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    The 24-year-old is making just her sixth WTA main draw appearance, with her first WTA 1000 appearance having come in Miami in March.

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