Emma Raducanu given boost in Australian Open warm-up event

Lucy Roberts
Emma Raducanu

British No 1 Emma Raducanu has had a change of opponent in the first round of the Sydney Tennis Classic after her original competition, Iga Swiatek, withdrew from the warm-up event.

The 19-year-old will now face ninth seed Elena Rybakina in the opening round of the WTA 500 event after she delayed the start of her season, withdrawing from the Melbourne Summer Set following her bout with Covid-19 which knocked her training for Australia’s summer of tennis back.

But Raducanu is ready and raring to go for her first full season on the WTA Tour and prove herself to the tennis world – however the same can’t be said for Polish 20-year-old Swiatek who wants time to recover from the Adelaide Open where she was beaten by eventual winner Ashleigh Barty in the semi-finals.

“After intense pre-season and last week’s tournament in Adelaide I feel like my body needs more time to recover before the Australian Open,” the world No 9 wrote on Twitter.

“I’ve been feeling some pain in my lower rib area which is why unfortunately I’ve decided to withdraw from the tournament in Sydney, I really hope to play for you next year.

“See you in Melbourne!”

Even though it could be argued that Raducanu now faces an easier opponent, Rybakina will still make for tough competition though as she’ll be full of momentum having just made it to the final of the Adelaide International, despite being defeated by world No 1 Barty.

The Russian-born Kazakhstani player is currently ranked No 14, has two WTA titles to her name and made it to the quarterfinals of the French Open last season.

Even if the British sensation manages to make it past the 22-year-old, she could still face the likes of Barty, Wimbledon and French Open winner Garbine Muguruza from Spain and Barbora Krejcikova who is reigning champion at Roland Garros, meaning Raducanu will have to shine in order to cut through the quality on show in Sydney.

Although the 2021 US Open champion doesn’t have any ranking points to defend she could be in with a chance of pushing into the top 10 after currently sitting at a career-high ranking of No 19.

The Sydney Tennis Classic gets underway from January 10.