Greek star Maria Sakkari believes Emma Raducanu does not get “enough credit” as she looks to solidify her place towards the top of the WTA Tour.
World No. 11 Raducanu beat Sakkari on her way to her shock US Open victory last summer.
She has struggled for consistency since then, and this week was struck down by another injury issue at the Nottingham Open, retiring from a match for the third time this season.
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Sakkari, who is top seed in Nottingham, was something of a late bloomer as she won her first WTA title aged 23, and says Raducanu, 19, needs time.
"I don't really know her that well, but people don't give enough credit to her. She has been playing good," said the world No. 5.
"It is not easy, if you exclude the US Open, she is 19. It takes time. The level at WTA is very, very high, so it is going to take time for her and every young player just to get used to the level.
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"She had a three-week tournament in New York and I think now what she is doing is the right thing.
"It took me a lot of time because my breakthrough was later than other players. Everyone has different times to break through. For me it was two or three years until I got used to the tour - it always takes time."
Sakkari, who has made finals in Indian Wells and St Petersburg this year, opened her grass season with a 6-2 6-3 win over Camila Osorio in Nottingham.
Shortly afterwards, Raducanu retired after 35 minutes of her match against Viktorija Golubic due to injury. The British No. 1 is expected to be fit for Wimbledon, which starts on June 27.
Asked about the pressure that comes with success, Sakkari says she can relate to Raducanu.
“It’s not something that you’re ready for – I felt like after Indian Wells, becoming world No. 3, I struggled a bit and it wasn’t easy for me to handle. It took a bit of time to get used to the fame – it’s all just about timing.
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“It’s different right now when I go back to Athens, everyone is really nice but everyone knows you and you’re in the spotlight so you’ll be seen everywhere you go.
“Her breakthrough [Raducanu’s] was something unique and she has a great future ahead of her. I think she has been playing good and I can’t see why she won’t do well.”
Raducanu has been beset by injury issues this season.
In Australia she was hampered by blisters on her hands before retiring with a hip injury during the longest match of the WTA season against Daria Saville in Mexico. She then had more blister trouble while competing in the Billie Jean King Cup for the first time for Great Britain.
In Madrid, Raducanu said she felt she was left with a “5% chance of winning” against Anhelina Kalinina due to back pain, and in her next tournament in Rome she pulled out against Bianca Andreescu in the first round due to the back problem.
Speaking about her latest setback, which is a side injury, Raducanu said it was "an absolute freak".
Sakkari takes on Rebecca Marino in the second round on Nottingham and is looking forward to the summer after a surprise second-round exit at the French Open.
“I’m very excited for the grass court season this year – I didn’t have the results I wanted on clay and I think things happen for a reason and now I have a great chance to prepare for Wimbledon," she said.
“My goal is to try and win every tournament so that’s my aim this week and then I’ll take it one tournament at a time.”
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