Emma Raducanu recently confirmed her comeback for the start of the 2024 season, taking a wildcard into the ASB Classic and signing up for the Australian Open. However, her hopes of playing her first Grand Slam tournament in a year are currently hanging by a thread as the Brit failed to make the cut-off for the main draw. With seven players in the main field using protected rankings, including new mum Naomi Osaka, the 21-year-old can only get in by receiving a wildcard or coming through qualifying.
Raducanu has not played a match in almost eight months and was forced to end her season after undergoing three different surgeries in May. There had initially been some concern about her comeback as she could not return in the Autumn and recently withdrew from the Macau Tennis Masters exhibition match at the start of December.
But the former world No 10 is finally ready to come back at the beginning of 2024, showing her intentions by receiving a wildcard into the ASB Classic in Auckland and putting her name on the Australian Open entry list using her protected ranking of No 103 in the world. After spending more than half a year on the sidelines due to injury, Raducanu is entitled to use the special ranking instead of her current standing of No 296.
Usually, No 103 would be high enough to make the cut-off for a Grand Slam main draw before qualifiers and wildcards come into the mix. But because so many players are using their own protected ranking to enter the Australian Open, the cut-off is unusually high at No 99 in the world.
It means that Raducanu won't be able to get into the main draw to continue her comeback unless several people withdraw, she receives a wildcard, or she wins three rounds of qualifying. Seven women have made it into the tournament using their protected rankings after taking absences from the sport for various reasons, including two Grand Slam champions.
Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber are both coming back in Australia following their respective pregnancy breaks. Both women have been No 1 in the world and have won the Australian Open in the past. Osaka, using a special ranking of No 46 in the world, hasn't played since September 2022 and gave birth to her first daughter in July.
Kerber has been sidelined even longer than Osaka, with her last tournament coming at Wimbledon in 2022. She announced her pregnancy break a month later and announced the birth of her daughter in February. The 2016 champion in Melbourne has a protected ranking of No 31.
A number of players, like Raducanu, are also returning from long injury layoffs. Jennifer Brady, who spent two years on the sidelines before competing in some tournaments this summer, has entered the Australian Open with a protected ranking of No 14 in the world. Ajla Tomljanovic is the only home player in the women's singles main draw thanks to her special standing of No 33 while Americans Shelby Rogers and Caty McNally have also been battling injuries and are ready to return.
Amanda Anisimova caps off the list of women entering the main draw with a special ranking and has a protected place of No 61 in the world. The 22-year-old announced an indefinite break from tennis in May in order to protect her mental wellbeing.
"I've really been struggling with my mental health and burnout since the summer of 2022," Anisimova said on Instagram "It's become unbearable being at tennis tournaments. At this point my priority is my mental well-being and taking a break for some time. I've worked as hard as I could to push through it. I will miss being out there, and I appreciate all the continuous support."
Their comebacks have left question marks surrounding Raducanu's own return to Grand Slam competition, however. If she can't find a way into the main draw before January 8, she will need to compete in the qualifying tournament. While the Brit has already enjoyed success as a qualifier - making history when she won the 2021 US Open - the circumstances are very different this time around as she will come in with little form following eight months on the sidelines.2023-12-10T06:51:41Z dg43tfdfdgfd