Emma Raducanu has reached the main draw of the Australian Open after American Lauren Davis pulled out with a shoulder injury.
The Briton, who has been on the sidelines after gruelling rehabilitation from injuries to both her wrists and her ankle, won her first match in eight months on Tuesday at the ASB Classic in Auckland when she beat Elena-Gabriela Ruse in three sets.
Although she had a ‘special ranking’ designation due to her time away, it wasn’t high enough for direct entry into the first grand slam of the year and meant she faced the prospect of having to qualify, echoing the path she took to win the US Open in 2021.
But the withdrawals of Karolina Muchova, Petra Kvitova, Irina-Camelia Begu, Caty McNally and now Davis means the 21-year-old will be in next week’s draw.
Raducanu is next in action on Thursday when she plays Elina Svitolina in the second round at around 5:30am GMT (UK).
Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal also enjoyed a winning return from his injury by beating Dominic Thiem in straight sets in the first round of the Brisbane international.
Nadal has been reticent to suggest he is a leading contender for the Australian Open, saying: “For me, it’s impossible to think about winning tournaments. But what’s really possible is to try to enjoy the comeback to the courts. I don’t expect much. Honestly, the only thing that I expect is to be able to go on court, to feel competitive and to give my best.
When does the Australian Open start?
The tournament begins on Sunday, Jan 14. It is the first Sunday start in the tournament’s history.
“We’ve listened to feedback from the players and fans and are excited to deliver a solution to minimise late finishes while continuing to provide a fair and equitable schedule on the stadium courts,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said.
“The additional day will achieve this, benefiting scheduling for fans and players alike. The first round will now be played over three days instead of two, also giving fans an extra day of unbelievable tennis, entertainment, food and family fun.
“Every year our team works hard to bring fans an event that feels new and exciting, and this is another opportunity to grow what is already the biggest annual sporting event in the world in January.”
When do the Australian Open finals take place?
The women’s final is on Saturday, Jan 27. The men’s final is on the following day (Jan 28).
How to watch the Australian Open on TV in the UK
In the UK, Eurosport has the broadcasting rights to live action from Melbourne. To watch on discovery+, an Entertainment & Sport pass is £6.99/month or £59.99/year.
How to watch the Australian Open on TV in the US
ESPN has the broadcasting rights to show the tournament.
What is the Australian Open prize money?
This year’s Australian Open total prize money is a record 13 per cent increase on 2023. £46.3m will be shared by the field with the eventual winners taking home £1.68m.
“We’ve upped prize money for every round at the Australian Open with the major increases in qualifying and the early rounds of singles and doubles,” Tiley said.
“We want to ensure Australia remains the launchpad for the global tennis season and the players and their teams have everything they need to help them perform at their best and continue to enjoy the Happy Slam.”
Which British players will be involved?
Cameron Norrie, Daniel Evans, Andy Murray, Katie Boulter, Jack Draper and Jodie Burrage are all on the entry list for the tournament.
Will Emma Raducanu play at the Australian Open?
Raducanu will play at the Australian Open after the withdrawals by Lauren Davis, Karolina Muchova, Petra Kvitova, Irina-Camelia Begu and Caty McNally, opened up a spot in the main draw and meant she avoided having to go through qualifying.
Who are the defending champions?
Last year, Novak Djokovic claimed the men’s singles title for a record-extending 10th time after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Aryna Sabalenka claimed her first grand slam title in the women’s draw when she defeated Elena Rybakina in three sets.