Emma Raducanu’s homecoming did not exactly go to plan at the Nottingham Open.
Playing in her first match on British soil since winning the US Open, the 19-year-old completed just seven games against Viktorija Golubic before retiring injured due to an acute side strain.
“First game, absolute freak,” Raducanu said afterwards. “I don’t know what I could have done about it. One shot in the first game, I was just like, this just doesn’t feel right at all.
“Then I was thinking, first game, if you do something in the first game, people are going to be like it, why did you walk out on to the court?
“So I definitely tried to get through it. I found myself 3-1 up as well. At that point, I knew it was just a matter of time to be honest.”
In what was the 19th match of the year for Raducanu, this was her third retirement due to injury. In February a left hip problem forced her to retire against Daria Saville in Guadalajara, while a back injury in May ended her hopes for her when she took on Bianca Andreescu in Rome.
The injuries have made for a frustrating 2022, and Raducanu visited a sports clinic in London after her Nottingham Open withdrawal to decipher whether she would be fit in time for Wimbledon, which starts on 27 June.
The prospects look promising, though, as she talked up her chances of returning to action soon despite having to withdraw from the Rothesay Classic in Birmingham.
“It was disappointing to go out this week with a side injury and unfortunately I will no longer be able to play in Birmingham,” she said, with the WTA 250 event starting on 11 June.
“I’m looking forward to being back on the match court soon, though, to enjoy the rest of the grass season.”
‘Raducanu’s body needs time to mature’
Judy Murray, the mother to British tennis stars Andy and Jamie, says Raducanu needs time to become “more robust and resilient” as she gets to grips with top-level tennis.
“What’s becoming increasingly clear is that Raducanu’s body needs time to mature,” Murray said in her Telegraph column.
“If you strip away the fact she was catapulted into this amazing success following her US Open triumph last September, she is no different to any other young player in the sense that her body needs time to fill out, become more robust and resilient.
It’s a process that simply doesn’t happen overnight, especially when the physical demands on her body are at an all-time high.
“The further you get up the tree, the tougher it is on both the mind and body. But on the physical side, you have to start to look at the other factors that can influence performance – sleep, nutrition and psychology are all part of that package.”
Providing her recovery stays on track, Raducanu will look towards receiving a wild card for Eastbourne, which is unlikely to be an issue given she would be a big draw for the tournament.
The WTA 500 event starts on 19 June, the week before Wimbledon begins, and boasts a strong field with eight of the world’s top 10 currently on the entry list.
It would be the ideal test for world No 11 Raducanu, and a deep run would hand her some momentum heading into Wimbledon.
Last year, Raducanu was handed a wild card for Wimbledon, where she reached the fourth round in her first-ever grand slam.
She beat Vitalia Diatchenko in straight sets in the opening round out on Court 18, and after another straight-sets win over Marketa Vondrousova on Court 12, she got her first taste of Court One when overcoming Sorana Cirstea 6-3 7-5.
Raducanu then retired in the second set of her fourth-round match against Ajla Tomljanovic, again on Court One, when suffering with breathing difficulties.
This time around, providing she is fit, Raducanu could make her Center Court bow, with Wimbledon organizers likely to try and strike a balance between playing the top-ranked players on the main courts as well as showing the best of the Brits.
Watch this space, as that could well provide a contentious issue when the tournament gets going.
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