Emma Raducanu presented with a glorious chance for rankings boost in Madrid

Kevin Palmer
Emma Raducanu Stuttgart 2024
Emma Raducanu before her match in Stuttgart

Emma Raducanu has yet to strike a ball in anger at this year’s Madrid Open, but she appears to have been presented with a chance to make a significant run in the Spanish capital.

The 2021 US Open champion showed the best form of her year as she won two matches for Great Britain in the Billie Jean King Cup tie against France and then reached the quarter-finals at last week’s Stuttgart Open.

Her 7-6(2) 6-3 defeat against world No 1 Iga Swiatek in Stuttgart gave a big indication of Raducanu’s levels as she heads into a hectic few weeks of action and the signs were good.

Now she has been handed a wildcard to play at the Madrid Open – a tournament owned by her management company IMG – and the draw appears to have been kind.

Raducanu rose 82 places in the WTA Rankings after her run to the last eight in Stuttgart and she is set to be presented with a glorious chance to take more giant leaps forward in her comeback over the next few days.

She was initially drawn against former world No 1 Karolina Pliskova, but the Czech star was forced to pull out of the Madrid Open and that means Raducanu will play either a qualifier or a lucky loser from the qualifying draw in her opening match.

That kind of draw is the stuff of dreams for an unseeded player and if she wins that match, Raducanu will be back in the top 200 on the WTA live rankings.

A match against world No 19 Veronika Kudermetova would then be on the agenda for Raducanu and while that would be a tough task, the Russian player has struggled to find consistent form in 2024 and a defeat against Raducanu’s fellow Brit Heather Watson (world ranked No 156 at the time) is one of the low points of her year.

Jelena Ostapenko could lie in wait for Raducanu in round three and that is a significant match-up for the former world No 10.

Ostapenko was the last opponent Raducanu faced before she underwent double wrist and ankle surgery a year ago, with Raducanu’s thumping defeat against the Latvian star forcing her to consider surgery.

READ MORE: Emma Raducanu says ‘everything is a win’ as Brit looks primed for rankings surge

If Raducanu was to get to a WTA 1000 fourth round for only the second time in her career, she could face Tunisa’s Ons Jabeur or Leylah Fernandez, who was her opponent in the 2021 US Open final.

A run to the fourth round in Madrid would fire Raducanu up to around No 160 in the WTA Rankings and even if she doesn’t achieve that kind of leap this week, two wins in the Spanish capital and two more at the upcoming WTA 1000 event in Rome would have a similar impact.

Raducanu has spoken to Sky Sports about her Madrid expectations and she reflected on an infamously brief press conference she gave before she pulled out of the tournament in 2022.

“I was thinking about my last interview in Madrid and it was 16 words [sic], so I think I’ve come on a lot since then,” she said.

“Obviously I had a lot going on, I knew I was going to have to have surgery, but I didn’t want to say anything about it.

“Coming here I feel a lot better, I’m in a lot better place with my tennis, mentally I feel really confident and I’m just looking forward for the rest of the clay season to be honest.

“The altitude here, it doesn’t catch you as off guard.

“It’s always going to be different, but at least you can expect it and you know where things are, which always helps – you know where the stringer is, the gym is, everything, where to find the food. That’s where it does come in handy, but I think I’m just trying to freshen up physically as much as possible.

“This was the last place I came to last year before surgery and I pulled out on site, and then I had surgery and missed the next eight months.

“For me, it’s like now I have zero to defend for the rest of the year, so everything is a gain, everything is a win. Thinking how far I came since last year is a great thing.”