Justine Henin has said that it will be a “huge surprise” if Emma Raducanu causes another major upset at the Australian Open.
Raducanu is set to contest her first Grand Slam event since winning the US Open in spectacular fashion last year. At 18, she became the youngest major champion since Maria Sharapova in 2004 after beating Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 in New York.
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With a WTA ranking of 150 at the start of the tournament, her victory also made her the lowest-ranked player to win a major since Kim Clijsters at the 2009 US Open. She goes into the Australian Open 18th in the rankings, a meteoric rise which has seen her become a tennis superstar almost overnight.
Raducanu is in mixed form as she gears up to play in Melbourne, however, having lost to Elena Rybakina 6-0, 6-1 in the opening round of the Sydney International earlier this week. Having tested positive for Covid in December and undergone a period of self-isolation, her preparations for the Australian Open have been far from ideal, while she has been handed a tough first-round draw against Sloane Stephens.
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Following the loss to Rybakina the British No 1 admitted that she had gone back to the drawing board, saying: “After the match I got a box of balls and went straight to the practice court.
“I felt like I could have done some things better in the match and I wanted to try and fix it straightaway, just to leave with a better feeling about it.
“At the end of the day I just want to keep putting myself out there. Even if I keep getting knocked down, it’s just about getting back up and basically just falling in front. You’re one step better, you learn more.
“I could have easily said it’s too soon and just play next week, but I wanted to really give myself some competitive points and matches. I think this will help in putting me in a better place for next week.”
Asked whether Raducanu can replicate her US Open success in Melbourne, Eurosport pundit Henin said: “With Raducanu, I really don’t think that she’s going to be able to do that. It will be a huge surprise because we all know how hard it is to keep going after what happened for her at such an early stage of her career. But still, of course, I wish the best for her because she has come back from Covid and, also, if we talk about consistency, I have been impressed a lot. So, yeah, it will be a possibility.”
As for the other contenders, Henin said: “Aryna Sabalenka doesn’t look in great form at the moment.
“With Sabalenka, of course we want to see her back at her level and, yes, with so many players you know that in one match in the women’s game anything can happen.
“This is why it's exciting in a certain way. But, in another way, to keep the fans to stay really connected, it’s not easy all the time to follow. So I hope this year also is going to bring more consistency.”
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