Emma Raducanu made a convincing grand-slam return with victory over Shelby Rogers in the first round of the Australian Open.

Playing her first major tournament since a second-round exit to Coco Gauff here last year following surgery on both wrists and one ankle, the 21-year-old produced an assured performance to beat the American 6-3 6-2.

A packed arena showed how much interest there is in Raducanu’s comeback, and this was the sort of routine win she will hope to achieve regularly throughout the season.

She is yet to reach the third round in Melbourne but looks to have a good chance ahead of a second-round clash with China’s Wang Yafan on Thursday.

Raducanu has spoken a lot over the past couple of weeks about seeing this comeback as a reset following her US Open triumph and the hoopla that followed.

It was somewhat ironic, therefore, that the draw pitted her against one of the players she beat during that incredible New York fortnight.

Rogers had knocked out Ashleigh Barty in the third round but was swatted aside by Raducanu, the British player dropping just three games.

Rogers has taken her own break from the sport having not played a match since Wimbledon because of knee surgery and an abdominal problem before she got married last month.

Ranked down at 161 as a consequence, this was one of the kinder openers Raducanu could have had, and Rogers clearly looked rusty during the opening set.

Raducanu settled well, though, balancing the aggressive game she is determined to stick to with a need for consistency and she did not face a break point throughout the contest.

Raducanu moved well, served strongly and showed good touch at the net and on a couple of drop shots.

Having broken Rogers’ serve in the fourth game, she did so again to open the second set before consolidating her advantage despite a brief disruption while a ball girl tried to escort a bug from the court.

Another break followed and Raducanu confidently served out the match to love before clenching her fist and waving to all sides of the court.

Katie Boulter defeated Yuan Yue for her first Australian Open victory in five years.

The British number one has lost in qualifying in Melbourne the previous two years but made rapid strides up the rankings in 2023 and was impressive in a 7-5 7-6 (1) victory over in-form Yuan.

The only missed step from Boulter, who has been subject of a lot of attention as the girlfriend of Australia’s big hope Alex De Minaur, was two match points that went begging on her own serve at 5-4 in the second set.

But she regrouped well and dominated the tie-break for just her second main-draw victory at Melbourne Park.

It was a tight contest throughout but Boulter showed once again that she is a player for the big occasion, coming out on top in nearly all the key moments.

A break for 6-5 in the opening set gave her the chance to serve it out, which she took in hot, breezy conditions.

Yuan, ranked seven places lower than Boulter at 61 in the world, reached the semi-finals of the WTA Tour event in Hobart last week, while her opponent also came into the tournament high on confidence after the best win of her career over Jessica Pegula at the United Cup.

There was nothing to separate the pair in the second set until Boulter, who had been under more pressure on her serve, broke to lead 5-4.

But her composure wavered at the wrong time, the 27-year-old serving a double fault on her first match point and then making a backhand error on the second as Yuan pulled back level.

She did not dwell on the missed opportunities, though, winning the first five points of the tie-break and taking her third match point to join fellow Britons Cameron Norrie and Jack Draper in the second round.

Jack Draper vomited into a courtside bin after overcoming struggles with the Melbourne heat to defeat Marcos Giron at the Australian Open in his first ever five-set match.

It is a measure of how inexperienced the 22-year-old still is at the highest level that he had never previously played a match that went the distance, and he looked in serious trouble at two sets to one down against American Giron.

But Draper has been working hard on his physical conditioning and it paid off as he fought back to win 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-0 6-2 after three hours and 20 minutes.

As soon as he had shaken hands with Giron after a final gruelling rally he ran to the bin to be sick, and it was several minutes before he was able to walk off the court.

He will now have to try to recover for a second-round match, against 14th seed Tommy Paul, on Thursday, when temperatures are at least forecast to be much lower.

It was early afternoon when Draper and Giron took to a baking Court Eight under a cloudless sky.

The British number four only arrived in Melbourne on Saturday night after reaching his second ATP Tour final in Adelaide, meaning he was full of confidence but also potentially jaded.

The match was dominated by punishing rallies from the start, with Draper getting the better of five straight breaks of serve and narrowly hanging on to his advantage.

But the momentum began to swing Giron’s way in the second set as the physicality of the match took its toll on Draper.

After Giron levelled the match, the 22-year-old called the trainer to have his pulse taken and blood pressure checked.

He carried on but was unable to chase down the sort of shots he had got to in the first set and his race looked run when Giron opened up a two sets to one lead.

He took another off-court break to change his clothes and came out for the fourth set with a game plan to up the aggression and shorten the points.

It worked superbly, a mixture of thumping groundstokes and feathered drop shots taking California’s Giron, who had appeared untroubled by the heat, out of his comfort zone.

Draper raced through the set, putting him into uncharted territory, but, with shade finally creeping across the court, both his game and his body just about held up to carry him through to his first victory at Melbourne Park.

Iga Swiatek won the battle of the grand slam champions against Sofia Kenin to reach the second round of the Australian Open.

Kenin lifted her first major title here in 2020 before losing to Swiatek in the French Open final the same year but has struggled since with injuries and a loss of form.

The American remains a dangerous player, though, and knocked Coco Gauff out in the first round of Wimbledon last year.

She served for the opening set before Swiatek fought back to take it in a
tie-break, and the Pole was the steadier in the second to claim a 7-6 (2) 6-2
victory.

“For sure, it wasn’t the easiest first round,” said the world number one. “She played really well. I tried to find my rhythm, especially in the first set. I’m happy at the end of the set I could win the most important points.

“I’m happy that I am through and I could play a little bit better in the second set.”

Remarkably, Swiatek was the only player in her initial section of the draw not to have made an Australian Open final.

Next she will take on another American in Danielle Collins, who ended Swiatek’s best run in Melbourne so far by beating her in the semi-finals two years ago before losing to Ashleigh Barty.

That is Collins’ only victory in five meetings with Swiatek, who won their most recent match 6-1 6-0 in Cincinnati last summer.

“I can’t say that I have an easy draw here,” said Swiatek. “I’ll try to do my best. Danielle is a really good player. We played really tight matches. On the other hand, our last match, from the score, I had it under control.

“Every match is different. I’m not going to anticipate anything. I’m just going to be ready and we’ll see.”

 

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Collins was a 6-2 3-6 6-1 winner over former Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open champion Angelique Kerber.

The German is part of a quartet of mothers making their Melbourne returns along with Caroline Wozniacki, Naomi Osaka and Elina Svitolina having given birth to daughter Liana last February.

“It is for sure different to be back like this,” said the 35-year-old. “I think I’m open more than before, and also the other players are. I’m also more relaxed so I feel that they appreciate it and I think it’s nice to see so many moms are back on tour.

“It is a long way to be back and to play on a high level again. But, on the other side, I have the experience, I know how it is. I played so many grand slams over the years. So I’m more trying to find my rhythm, to being on court and feeling good again.”

There were also victories for two other former grand slam winners, with 18th seed Victoria Azarenka beating Camila Giorgi 6-1 4-6 6-3 and Sloane Stephens seeing off Olivia Gadecki 6-3 6-1.

Cameron Norrie dispelled injury worries to ease into the second round of the Australian Open.

The British number one pulled out of the ASB Classic in Auckland, the city where he grew up, last week ahead of his quarter-final because of a left wrist problem.

Norrie admitted he was concerned with so little time to recover but there were no causes for alarm in a 6-4 6-4 6-2 victory over Peru’s Juan Pablo Varillas as he became the first British winner of the fortnight.

It was a kind draw for Norrie, although 81st-ranked Varillas did push Alexander Zverev to five sets in the first round here last year before going on to make the fourth round of the French Open.

Norrie looked a little tentative to start with but settled into a rhythm of lengthy baseline rallies and finally took his sixth opportunity to break serve in the fifth game.

The 19th seed took full control of the contest in the second set, finding more penetration on his groundstrokes and opening up a 5-1 lead.

Varillas fought back with three games in a row but Norrie served it out at the second time of asking and was untroubled in the third.

Boris Becker would not rule out Andy Murray appearing at the Australian Open in 2025.

Murray will make his 16th appearance in the main draw at Melbourne Park on Monday when he faces 30th seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry in the first round.

It was five years ago at the 2019 Australian Open when three-time grand-slam champion Murray contemplated retirement and a highlights montage shown after his round-one exit appeared to signal the end of his career.

Surgery to resurface his hip followed and while it has enabled the five-time Australian Open runner-up to continue playing well into his thirties, the Scot cut a frustrated figure at the end of 2023.

But Becker had little concern over Murray not appearing in Australia again.

“Well, I would never rule Andy out,” Eurosport pundit Becker insisted. “As long as he has fun, as long as he enjoys it and as long as he has success, he will continue.

“I was worried a couple of years ago when he did the press conference and said it was most likely his last one because it was before his surgery so he didn’t know if he would come back.

“We moved past that and I think he is physically fit enough, but obviously the tennis circuit doesn’t sleep and Andy doesn’t get younger either.

 

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“Those 22-years-old are now those 24-years-olds and Andy is 36 so the clock is ticking.

“I am sure he will do well this year., I am sure he is aiming for a successful Wimbledon and he’ll take it from there.”

At the other end of the spectrum, British number four Jack Draper will aim to make his mark in Melbourne after an injury-hit past campaign.

Draper, 22, recently beat Becker’s protege Holger Rune to win the UTS event in London last month and earned praise from the six-time grand-slam winner.

Becker said: “Look, an unbelievable talent. You can see he loves the competition, he loves tennis, he loves to be out there, but he had some injury problems last year, so he couldn’t play as much as he wanted to.

“He is a big guy, a powerful guy and he needs to address his body. He needs to be longer in the shape he is right now.

“I don’t know him and I don’t know his group of people too well, so I don’t how much he trains on and off the court, but what I could tell is that physically he struggled last year and that is the foundation of a successful tennis player.

“I am sure he learned his lessons, I am sure he had a good winter. I saw the result in Adelaide, he looked fit. I am sure they have done a lot of off-court training and I wish him luck.

“Great Britain needs good, young players. You have got Wimbledon around the corner, you have the Queens tournament so you want your local heroes to be successful there.”

:: Watch every moment of the Australian Open LIVE and exclusive on Eurosport and discovery+ from 14-28 January.

Emma Raducanu was left unable to do simple tasks after three surgeries last spring, but the 21-year-old believes the enforced break from tennis could be the making of her.

Coping with the instant global fame and expectations that accompanied her remarkable US Open victory in 2021 proved very difficult for Raducanu, who had slipped outside the top 100 when she revealed she needed operations on both wrists and one ankle.

The recovery has not been straightforward, with the Kent player finally able to make her comeback last week in Auckland after eight months on the sidelines.

 

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She cut a noticeably more relaxed and happy figure, and she told the PA news agency: “I would say I would take the place that I’m in now mentally and physically and trade it for the past eight months on the tour.

“Missing that time, it obviously was really difficult in the moment, and seeing the tournaments go on, but I would have done it again if I had to.”

Raducanu spoke on Friday about feeling like she was carrying around a “backpack of rocks” as she tried to build on her history-making success.

“It was like it was glued on,” she added. “I think now it’s completely off, I feel good, I feel better and ready to take this second chance at being on the tour again.”

Now able to look back and reflect on the decisions she has made since lifting the trophy at Flushing Meadows, Raducanu’s one regret is not giving herself more time.

A swift loss in her opening match in Indian Wells at her next tournament set the tone for a year and a half of struggle.

“I probably would have taken some more time off to rest and then to train because I feel like I had a lot of things straight after the US Open and then Indian Wells was right around the corner, so I kind of rushed straight into it with minimal practice and it was a bit of a spiral from there,” she said.

Coincidentally, Raducanu’s grand slam return at the Australian Open on Tuesday will be against American Shelby Rogers, whom she beat in the fourth round in New York.

 

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Rogers is also coming off a period of inactivity after knee surgery, an abdominal injury and a December wedding.

The 31-year-old is not surprised that time away has helped Raducanu’s mindset, saying: “I think sometimes it’s difficult to keep that perspective week to week.

“Especially if you don’t have your identity rooted somewhere outside of tennis, you’re sort of living and dying with wins and losses. It can be really difficult.

“It’s really nice to hear that she’s feeling refreshed and has that perspective again. I think it’s really important for especially the younger players to keep that.”

Accompanying Raducanu in Melbourne is new coach Nick Cavaday, who she originally worked with a decade ago.

Raducanu has returned to the tour with a determination to play her aggressive game style having felt she had unintentionally moved away from that.

Much has been made of the frequent changes in her coaching set-up, and she said: “I think it’s different styles of training, different styles of coaching. I think I play my best when I’m instinctive and free, and to be able to do that I need to put the time in on the practice court.

“I felt like I was chasing my tail a bit from tournament to tournament, and I wasn’t really doing the blocks of work in between, so I think just pausing and doing those physical things and on the practice court is something I’m going to do more of this year.

“With Nick, we both are very much aligned with how we see my tennis and my potential but potential is one thing so we have to do the work. I’m looking forward to doing it with him to get there. I need to be aggressive but find a balance, not just being a bull in a china shop.”

Coaching instability and Raducanu’s commercial activities have been central to the criticism that has rained down on her post-US Open.

Raducanu’s career continues to attract significant attention from far beyond the tennis world, and she said with a smile: “I guess I should feel flattered that they’re speaking about me.

“I think it affected me more straight after when I was a bit younger. Now I think I’m getting more and more immunised to it the more it goes on.”

The first British player in action on Sunday will be Jodie Burrage, who is making her debut in the main draw and will face German Tamara Korpatsch.

Novak Djokovic is optimistic his wrist problems are behind him as he prepares to start his bid for an 11th Australian Open title.

The world number one was hampered by a right wrist issue during an uncharacteristic loss to Alex De Minaur playing for Serbia at the United Cup earlier this month.

But he has been practising this week at Melbourne Park, and said ahead of a first-round clash with Croatian teenager Dino Prizmic on Sunday: “My wrist is good.

“I had time from the last match against De Minaur in the United Cup to my first match here to recover. I’ve been training well. Practice sessions pain-free so far. It’s all looking good. Let’s see how it goes.”

Djokovic is no stranger to injuries in Melbourne, with an abdominal problem almost derailing him in 2021, while he played through last year’s tournament with a hamstring issue.

He still won the title on both occasions, and he said of the wrist: “It’s not as bad as some other injuries I had here – 2021 and last year I had worse injuries that I had to deal with.

“I can’t predict whether it’s going to come back. Once I start playing more matches, stress levels go higher. I don’t know. We have to find out.”

At 36, Djokovic remains as dominant as ever, falling only one match short of a calendar Grand Slam in 2023.

This year once again offers the chance for a Golden Slam, with a first Olympic gold medal in Paris an obvious target, while another victory in Melbourne would make him the first player ever to win 25 slam singles titles.

“It’s no secret that I verbalise my goals and I say clearly that I want to win every slam that I play in,” said the Serbian.

“It’s no different this year. I’m just hoping I can start the season in a way that I have been starting my seasons, most of my seasons, throughout my career: with a win here in Australia, in Melbourne.

“My favourite place, no doubt. The court where I’ve done great things and achieved my greatest grand slam results.

“I hope that I’m going to be able to, if not play at the level that I did last year, then be very close to that, because that was one of the best tennis levels that I’ve ever played, here in Australia last year.

“The season is so long. Grand slams, Olympics, those are the big goals. I have to see how it goes here and think about everything else when it comes around the corner.”

Djokovic continues to hold back the next generation single-handed, with only Carlos Alcaraz managing to get the better of him at the slams last year in a brilliant Wimbledon final.

The Spaniard, who missed last year’s Australian Open with a leg injury, leads Djokovic’s likely challengers along with fellow young gun Jannik Sinner.

 

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Alcaraz is already eyeing a potential final battle against Djokovic, saying: “It’s an extra motivation for me. I’m an ambitious guy. Obviously it’s a good test, playing against him in the places or in the tournament that he’s almost unbeaten.

“I’m looking for reaching the final and hopefully playing a final against him. It would be great, obviously.”

Alcaraz will have to do it, though, without his long-time coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, who is back home in Spain recuperating from knee surgery.

Alcaraz, who plays veteran Richard Gasquet in round one, is being guided here by Ferrero’s former coach Samuel Lopez, and he said: “It’s tough not being with him. Obviously he travels to almost 100 per cent of the tournaments. It’s going to be difficult to approach a big tournament without him.

“I have Sam with me that is a great coach as well. I trust him. I believe in him. Juan Carlos as well. I think I can learn a lot from him.”

Coco Gauff has set herself a target of winning at least 10 grand slam titles during her career.

The 19-year-old goes into the Australian Open as tennis’ newest major winner after lifting the trophy at the US Open last September.

Asked if she had a number in mind, Gauff said: “I would say recently I feel like I wanted to get double-digits. That’s cool.

 

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“I don’t know if it will happen, but I think that’s a high goal. I think setting my goals high pushes me beyond what I think I can do.”

Players often struggle in the period after a major breakthrough, but Gauff began her 2024 season by defending her title in Auckland and will be one of the favourites for success in Melbourne.

“During the off-season we did celebrate a little bit just because after the US Open everything was so fast,” said the world number four, who plays Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the first round.

“Now, going into another slam, it really feels like so long ago. Some players’ goal is to win a grand slam. Once they reach that, it’s kind of what’s next.

“For me, I always knew I wanted to win multiple. It was kind of easy to forget about it. Not ‘forget’. I think that’s the wrong word. Maybe just put it in the past and look forward to the future instead of dwelling on the past.

“I think for me the only thing I will try to remember from that slam is just the way that I won. It wasn’t my best tennis. It was more the mental fire.”

Gauff credits her success to a shift in mentality, helped by new coach Brad Gilbert, after a disappointing loss against Sofia Kenin in the opening round of Wimbledon.

“I think I put too much pressure on winning a slam,” she said. “When I went on the scene at 15, I felt like I had to win a slam as a teenager because that’s what everybody thought.

“Honestly, going into US Open, I didn’t expect it. I felt like I was having a bad season, and my focus was just get through the season and focus on the Australian Open this year.

“I think putting that mindset just relaxed me a lot. At the end of the day, the worst thing that happened to me at Wimbledon was I could lose first round. That wasn’t even that bad. Obviously it sucked. The world didn’t end. The sun still shines. I still have my friends and family.

“I realised that losing isn’t all that bad, and that I should just focus on the battle and the process and enjoy it. When it’s 5-5 in the third set, enjoy that battle instead of thinking, ‘What if I lose?’ I found myself being able to play freer and trust myself more.”

 

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Looking to avoid a first-round upset against former Australian Open winner Kenin this time will be top seed Iga Swiatek, who is bidding for a first title in Melbourne.

Aryna Sabalenka broke her grand slam duck here last year and went on to reach at least the semi-finals at each of the grand slams and become world number one.

The Belarusian, who will take on German teenager Ella Seidel in the first night session on Sunday, said: “I had an incredible season last year, improved a lot as a player and as a person. I did really a great pre-season. We worked a lot. I felt like we improved a lot. I feel really great and feel like I’m ready to go.”

Cameron Norrie admits he is concerned about the wrist injury he suffered ahead of the Australian Open.

The British number one was forced to pull out of his quarter-final at the ASB Classic in Auckland, the city where he grew up, on Thursday after feeling pain in his left wrist following a second-round victory over Luca Van Assche.

Norrie is due to play his first match at Melbourne Park on Tuesday against Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas, and he said: “There was not a particular moment where I felt something happen or anything.

 

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“The next day I was a bit sore, wasn’t able to play, obviously. I did a scan. It didn’t show anything too much. So I’m here and it’s feeling a bit better.

“I couldn’t play Auckland, so I’m obviously concerned. But we’re managing it with my team. It was better today, which is positive. Luckily I’m scheduled to play on Tuesday, so I have a few more days. I’m looking forward to practice tomorrow.”

The injury is badly timed for 19th seed Norrie, who struggled during the second half of last season and admitted he felt a little burned out.

He was rejuvenated after a strong pre-season, where he worked with new coach Stephen Huss, and claimed an excellent win to start 2024 against in-form Alex De Minaur at the United Cup.

Australian Huss will work alongside Norrie’s main coach Facundo Lagones, with the focus being on training weeks, and Norrie said: “He was so good, such a good influence on everyone in the team.

“He speaks really clearly on what he wants to see and what his ideas are, which I liked. He came in with some really good ideas. Great fit for the team. It was an unbelievable two weeks with him there.

“Great for Facu as well. Facu learnt a lot. I think it was exactly what we needed to talk about a bit more, tactics. I really liked him. There was no ego involved. He came in and he was really excited. He was loving the sessions and the quality we were bringing.

“I’m just pumped to be back on the court playing, competing the way I was there in the United Cup and the match in Auckland. I just want to keep evolving, keep getting better. A lot to learn from last year, but I want to look forward.”

There are also question marks over the fitness of British number two Dan Evans.

The 33-year-old played his first tournament this week in Adelaide after suffering a calf injury in October but admits he is still short of where he needs to be.

“The amount of people who say it’s an old person’s injury, pulling a calf, is astonishing,” said Evans with a wry smile.

“I had to be really cautious with it because all the doctors and physios said to do it again is not what you want. It was my tendon, as well, which is pretty important. My leg is fully fit. Obviously, you have to work the rest up.”

 

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Evans will take on Italian Lorenzo Sonego in his first match, while second seed Carlos Alcaraz is likely to be waiting should he win that.

“Definitely I can win my first round,” said Evans. “It’s how my body holds up and how it will recover. It was sore last week. I just haven’t had as much practice and training as I would really like.

“But you can have as much practice as you like, if you’re playing Alcaraz, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win anyway.”

Emma Raducanu believes she is “too good” not to get back to the top of the game – if she can stay fit.

The 21-year-old will play a grand-slam match for the first time in a year when she takes on American Shelby Rogers in the opening round of the Australian Open.

Triple surgery on both wrists and one ankle put Raducanu off the tour for eight months but she gave a reminder of what a high-class tennis player she is in her comeback tournament in Auckland last week.

The biggest question mark remains the robustness of Raducanu’s body, and she pulled out of two exhibition matches this week with soreness following a long practice session on Monday.

 

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Any fears about her participation in Melbourne have since been allayed, and she said: “Physically I feel good. I did a lot of good work in the off-season.

“But I think that, regardless of how good I may feel on the court on a particular day or in practice, I think to get that level of consistency is going to require more time.

“I’ve been doing the right work, doing it consistently. I just need to keep going more and more. But I feel good on court and in the gym.”

Raducanu is currently ranked down at 299 as a result of her long break, although she can enter tournaments using her protected ranking from before surgery of 103.

“I think success to me in the long-term is, for the rest of the year, to play a full season, to be healthy throughout, to be able to train consistent weeks,” she said.

“I know my level is there, I just need to keep working on it to make it more consistent. I think that will come with time in the gym, time on court, being able to play the calendar, not thinking about ‘Will I have to pull out from this one, does that hurt’?

“I think my level, to be honest, is just too good not to come through if I put consistent work together.”

Raducanu practised with British duo Katie Boulter and Jodie Burrage on Friday and earned rave reviews from both.

“I think it’s absolutely incredible what she’s doing,” said Boulter. “To come back with that level already, it’s inspirational.

“You know how long it took me to get back (from injury). It really isn’t easy, trust me. It’s not something that you can just pick up like that. It seems like she’s playing very, very well. I’m sure it’s going to be a great year for her. I’m expecting big things.”

Without a coach for most of her recovery, Raducanu is in Melbourne with Nick Cavaday, who she previously worked with between the ages of 10 and 12.

Raducanu hopes it will prove a good fit, saying: “We’re just taking it how it goes. It’s been working really well so far.

“I, of course, hope to continue with him because I feel very comfortable with him. I know his sister (former British player Naomi Cavaday) really well because, like, everyone is from Bromley.”

 

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Cavaday previously coached Dominic Inglot and Aljaz Bedene before heading up the Lawn Tennis Association’s national academy in Loughborough.

There is no indication Raducanu will look to add a full-time fitness trainer or physio to her team, with the former US Open champion keen to keep a tight circle around her.

She cuts a much happier figure than for most of the period post her New York triumph, and she said: “I feel a lot lighter now than I did for a long time after US Open. I feel like I’m not playing with a backpack of rocks. I feel pretty light and happy.

“Reflecting on the past, I think people are very important. I think surrounding yourself with competent and knowledgeable people is of course really important, but also the type of person and their character is big-time, just making sure we really get on and intentions are really good.”

Katie Boulter is enjoying being part of the “circus” surrounding Australian boyfriend Alex De Minaur.

De Minaur is the newest member of the world’s top 10 and the home country’s great hope for a grand slam champion at Melbourne Park in a fortnight’s time.

His relationship with Boulter has generated a lot of attention, with the pair playing mixed doubles together at Wimbledon last summer, and she is happy to share his moment in the spotlight.

“I am a very private person,” she said. “I like to keep myself to myself, my team close, the things that matter most to me away from everything.

“I think it’s definitely been fun to be a part of because it’s been a little bit of a circus, but a good circus. I think it’s awesome that he’s getting the attention that he really does deserve and he’s put the work in for it.

“He’s playing some of the best tennis of his life and it really does fill me with a lot of pride to actually watch him at this moment.

“I feel like I’m sharing him with everyone, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s definitely a lot. But he’s handled it a lot of his career and he knows how to deal with it and I’m right there next to him.”

 

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With Nick Kyrgios still sidelined through injury, De Minaur will carry home hopes virtually single-handed, but the 24-year-old sees only positives.

“I’m living my dream,” he said. “I can wake up in the morning and know that I’ve achieved a massive milestone, which was very tough to get to. I didn’t know if I was going to achieve it.

“Now I can look at myself and say that I’ve done it, that I’m a completely different player to what I was last year. It’s exciting because I’ve got bigger and better things to come hopefully.”

Boulter and De Minaur have been together since 2020 but the last 12 months have seen both hit new heights in their career.

Boulter enters the Australian Open ranked 57 and heads into a first-round clash with China’s Yuan Yue full of confidence after a great start to 2024.

At the United Cup in Perth, Boulter claimed the biggest victory of her career over world number five Jessica Pegula and has her sights set on another sizeable leap this year.

“It was huge,” she said of her win over the American. “I’m sure it wasn’t the best match of her career but I felt like I was right there.

“She’s one of the top players in the world and it gives you belief that that can be you and I strongly believe that if I keep working the way that I do that I can do that.”

She continued: “Top 100 has not been my number. I think I did that five years ago and now I really want to keep pushing. Even 50, I’ve ticked that off as well.

“And now it’s time to start getting up to the real business side of tennis and I think the work that we’ve been putting in has given me a great platform this past year to really push on and give these girls a go. Now it just takes a little bit of belief and a lot more hard work.”

Nostalgia and memories of past glories have accompanied Naomi Osaka on her return to the Australian Open but the two-time champion is determined to be patient with herself.

Osaka is playing her first grand slam tournament since the US Open in 2022 after giving birth to daughter Shai last summer.

The winner at Melbourne Park in 2019 and 2021, the 26-year-old is feeling her way back into life on tour having made her comeback at the Brisbane International last week.

 

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“Just going into the locker room and having the same locker as before, I think little things like that really make me happy,” said Osaka.

“Just being able to hit on Rod Laver, I guess, look up at the sky and kind of realise, I’ve been able to win twice here. I would love to do it again.

“Definitely it is hard because I do think of all the amazing memories that I’ve had. I also think, in my head, who am I to just come back in the second tournament and expect so much from myself, especially against the best players in the world?

“Even hitting today with Ons (Jabeur), I caught myself getting a little disappointed in myself when I would make some mistakes. But I’m hitting against Ons. I think it’s just one of those things where I now think to myself that I have to give myself a lot of time and patience.”

Osaka cuts a notably happier figure than the player who struggled with her mental health during 2022 and contemplated stepping away from the sport completely.

Time and a new perspective as a mother has given Osaka, who is also a two-time winner of the US Open, a different outlook on her career.

“I’ve taken a lot of breaks throughout the years,” she said. “I think this one was the one that finally clicked in my head. I think I realised, being an athlete, that time is really precious. (Before) I was young and I felt like I could kind of roll back into it whenever I needed to.

“I guess after having Shai, going through the struggle of trying to get myself back to where I want to be, it was incredibly tough.

“I have a much more positive mindset and a much more grateful mindset. I think overall I’m just happy to be here because I remember last year I was watching people playing Australian Open, and I couldn’t participate myself.”

Osaka has not travelled to Australia with Shai, who has stayed back home in the USA.

“It’s definitely been really hard,” she said. “She’s learning things while I’m gone. I’m hoping she doesn’t learn how to crawl before I come back. She’s doing her little plank thing and scooting forward and back. I think it might be a little inevitable.

“I’m definitely sad, but I feel like it’s a selfish sad because I want her to be here. But I think, for her health, her whole environment is at home. I don’t want to put her out of that while she’s still so young. I FaceTime her often.”

Osaka, who joins fellow former champions Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber as mothers making their Australian Open returns, has a tricky first-round draw against 16th seed Caroline Garcia.

She is happy how her body has reacted to playing matches again, saying: “There has been stiffness and soreness but honestly not as bad as I was expecting. Even without having gone through post-pregnancy, I’m normally very sore on the first tournament back.

“But it ended up really fine. I think my body’s quite adaptable. I think I’ve been doing pretty well. I’m pretty confident with where I’m at right now.”

Andy Murray is happy to see tennis finally addressing its late night habit – although he is not ruling out more long days at the Australian Open.

The ATP and WTA announced earlier this week a new scheduling policy restricting the number of matches played per day at tournaments and setting a deadline of 11pm for contests to start.

Murray was involved in one of the latest finishes in grand slam history last year when he completed a five-set win over Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round of the Australian Open at 4.05am.

The Scot strongly criticised the scheduling afterwards, and the tournament’s response has been to move to a 15-day event, spreading the first round over three days.

There will be a minimum of two matches rather than three in the day session on Rod Laver Arena and Margaret Court Arena but the night session will still feature two matches starting at 7pm.

“I don’t think the Sunday start will change the late finishes,” said Murray. “I think on centre court they’re having two matches in the day, two matches in the evening.

“I think that will reduce the possibility for late finishes on Rod Laver just because it’s unlikely you’re going to have issues with the day session running into the night, then having that gap where they have to clear out the stadium and get the night session fans in.

“My understanding is that on the other show courts that’s not changing, so there still is the possibility for that to happen.”

Murray welcomed the tours’ new rules, saying: “It’s really good. I’ve spoken about it, I’ve heard lots of players and the media, obviously, discussing it for a long time. It just makes sense. It’s a very obvious thing that needs to change.

“I haven’t heard anyone really disagree with that. So it’s positive that there’s going to be some changes made. It will be good for, I think, everyone. It will definitely help with recovery for following day’s matches and things like that.

“I certainly think, for fans and the tournament, it just probably looks a wee bit more professional if you’re not finishing at three or four in the morning.”

Murray is making his 16th appearance in the main draw at Melbourne Park and will take on 30th-seeded Argentinian Tomas Martin Etcheverry in the first round on Monday.

He cut a very frustrated figure at the end of last season and goes into this tournament short on wins but insisted he is feeling happier about his game.

“I definitely feel like I’m enjoying it better,” he said. “I think part of that is the mental side of it. Tennis is a difficult game in that respect. When you’re struggling, you’re obviously out there on your own, it can be difficult at times.

“Also the way you’re playing. When you know you’re capable of doing more than what you are, if you’re not happy with the way you’re hitting forehands and backhands and serving and those sorts of things, there’s the technical aspect as well.

“Fixing some of those problems has helped me feel better on the court. Definitely some focus on the mental side, as well. Reframing the way you look at things definitely, definitely helps.”

Murray and Etcheverry met twice last year, sharing the spoils in two long matches.

“I made most of my matches quite physical last year,” said Murray with a smile. “I know that last year, when I wasn’t serving well, you end up getting into lots more long rallies and everything. Hopefully that’s not the case in a couple of days.”

Emma Raducanu will make her grand slam return against American Shelby Rogers at the Australian Open.

Rogers was one of the players Raducanu, who is playing her first major tournament for a year following surgery on both wrists and one ankle, beat on her way to the US Open title in 2021.

Raducanu made a positive return in Auckland last week, pushing Elina Svitolina in the second round before tiring, but alarm bells began ringing when she pulled out of first an exhibition match at Melbourne Park on Tuesday and then another exhibition at the Kooyong Classic on Thursday.

 

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However, Raducanu’s team insisted both were precautionary after she felt some soreness following a practice session on Monday and she practised for two hours at Melbourne Park on Thursday.

Raducanu looked relaxed and happy hitting with fellow British player Lily Miyazaki under the guidance of coach Nick Cavaday, with no strapping or obvious signs of discomfort.

Rogers is a kind draw on paper with the 31-year-old also coming off a long break having not played since Wimbledon and ranked down at 156.

All the British women avoided seeds in the first round, with Katie Boulter drawing China’s Yuan Yue and Jodie Burrage taking on German Tamara Korpatsch.

An intriguing women’s draw was headlined by top seed Iga Swiatek taking on 2020 champion Sofia Kenin, with the winner to play either another past winner in the returning Angelique Kerber or former finalist Danielle Collins.

Four-time grand slam champion Swiatek is the only one of that quartet who is yet to reach the final in Melbourne, although she will be a strong favourite to come through.

Naomi Osaka, who like Kerber is returning after having a baby, makes her grand slam comeback against 16th seed Caroline Garcia while reigning champion Aryna Sabalenka faces a qualifier.

Caroline Wozniacki’s first match in Melbourne since her retirement here in 2020 will be against 20th seed Magda Linette, with the Dane having returned to the sport last summer, reaching the fourth round of the US Open.

Andy Murray was the only British player to draw a seed, with the five-time former finalist taking on 25th-rated Argentinian Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

Should the Scot make the third round, he would expect to find himself up against top seed Novak Djokovic, who will open against a qualifier.

Cameron Norrie, the only British seed at 19, faces Peru’s Juan Pablo Varillas, with Jack Draper meeting American Marcos Giron and Dan Evans playing Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Fourth seed Jannik Sinner was drawn in the top half as a potential semi-final opponent for Djokovic while Carlos Alcaraz and third seed Daniil Medvedev are in the bottom half.

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