Emma Raducanu has avoided a qualifying nightmare at the Australian Open after moving into the main draw for the upcoming Grand Slam tournament.
The British star has gained direct entry for the first major tournament of 2024 – which starts on January 14 – after Lauren Davis pulled out with a shoulder injury.
Raducanu returned to the WTA Tour after eight months out this week, beating world No.134 Elena-Gabriela Ruse at the Auckland Classic in New Zealand.
The 21-year-old, who sensationally won the US Open as a qualifier in 2021, only managed 10 matches last year amid various injury problems and surgery.
Raducanu’s time away from the court has seen her drop to world No.301 and her protected ranking was not good enough for direct entry for the Australian Open, while she was also overlooked for a wildcard spot and looked set for qualifying.
But Raducanu will now avoid qualifying after the withdrawals of Karolina Muchova, Petra Kvitova, Irina-Camelia Begu, Caty McNally and now Davis.
Raducanu is back in action on Thursday as she faces Ukrainian second seed Elina Svitolina in the last 16 of the Auckland Classic.
Ranked as high as world No.10 in 2022, Raducanu is just hoping to have an ‘injury-free’ season this year after undergoing three different surgeries.
‘It’s pretty amazing to just be out here and playing,’ Raducanu said after her win over Ruse. ‘I’m just really happy to be back on the tour and can’t wait to start this season and carry on hopefully injury-free and healthy.
‘It’s difficult after having such a long hiatus, but I’m grateful to be healthy, grateful to be able to move my body, not bed-ridden and in a wheelchair.’