Tennis chief reveals how he brought Emma Raducanu back to Auckland for comeback event

Emma Raducanu

Emma Raducanu did not appear to be too happy when she left the ASB Classic in Aukland last year, so it was something of a surprise to see her confirming her comeback event will take place at the New Zealand event next month.

The 2021 US Open champion has not played a match since a heavy loss to Jelena Ostapenko in Stuttgart in April and after undergoing surgery on both wrists and one ankle, she ended up missing the rest of the 2023 season.

Until recently there were doubts over whether she would make the start of next year but those have eased in recent weeks as she has stepped up her training.

Now been announced she will play at the WTA tournament in New Zealand beginning on January 1, with her experience at this event last year reducing her to tears.

Raducanu suffered an ankle injury during her second-round match and retired in Aukland last year and that led to her undergoing surgery to repair the injury sustained in that match.

The British star hinted the slick court conditions were the reason for her issues and even though she recovered to play at the Australian Open, few expected this to Aukland to be the scene of her comeback.

Yet tournament director Nicolas Lamperin revealed his offer of a wildcard for Raducanu was the decisive factor in her decision to play in New Zealand.

“We kept in touch with Emma throughout the year. She decided to go for surgery in April, after Stuttgart and it was going to be a long process for her,” Lamperin told New Zeland outlet Stuff.

“When we touched base in early July, we didn’t have much of an update, because it was still in the early stage.

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“But we kept the dialogue going and said we know how it works, players who’ve been away from the Tour get a protected ranking.

“However, the number of tournaments they can do with their protected ranking is limited, so whenever they can get wildcards on top of their protected ranking it gives them longer to get back on the Tour.

“That’s something which really helped the discussion. She was obviously in no rush, she wanted to make sure she was fully healthy and ready to come back.

“She loves this time of year. She had fun in New Zealand and despite the fact she had to retire this year, she was happy to come back.”

Raducanu will be entitled to play a select set of tournaments on her protected ranking, which has been set at No 103 after her injury break started in April.

Wildcards will not eat into her options for selecting the events she will use her protected ranking and given her status and global fame, plenty of tournament directors are likely to welcome Raducanu into their events in 2024.

As yet, Australian Open chiefs have not given Raducanu a wild card for the opening Grand Slam of 2024 and most wild cards usually go to home players.

If Raducanu is not given a wild card in Melbourne, and there are not sufficient withdrawals among higher-ranked players to secure her place, she will have to go through qualifying.

That might welcome that challenge after following that route to win the US Open two years ago.