Coping with the instant global fame and expectations that accompanied her remarkable US Open victory in 2021 proved very difficult for Raducanu, who had slipped outside the top 100 when she revealed she needed operations on both wrists and one ankle.
She cut a noticeably more relaxed and happy figure, and said: “I would say I would take the place that I’m in now mentally and physically and trade it for the past eight months on the tour.
“Missing that time, it obviously was really difficult in the moment, and seeing the tournaments go on, but I would have done it again if I had to.”
Raducanu spoke on Friday about feeling like she was carrying around a “backpack of rocks” as she tried to build on her history-making success.
“It was like it was glued on,” she added. “I think now it’s completely off, I feel good, I feel better and ready to take this second chance at being on the tour again.”
Raducanu has returned to the tennis court after injury— (Getty Images)
Now able to look back and reflect on the decisions she has made since lifting the trophy at Flushing Meadows, Raducanu’s one regret is not giving herself more time.
A swift loss in her opening match in Indian Wells at her next tournament set the tone for a year and a half of struggle.
“I probably would have taken some more time off to rest and then to train because I feel like I had a lot of things straight after the US Open and then Indian Wells was right around the corner, so I kind of rushed straight into it with minimal practice and it was a bit of a spiral from there,” she said.
Coincidentally, Raducanu’s grand slam return at the Australian Open on Tuesday will be against American Shelby Rogers, whom she beat in the fourth round in New York. Rogers is also coming off a period of inactivity after knee surgery, an abdominal injury and a December wedding.
The 31-year-old is not surprised that time away has helped Raducanu’s mindset, saying: “I think sometimes it’s difficult to keep that perspective week to week.
“Especially if you don’t have your identity rooted somewhere outside of tennis, you’re sort of living and dying with wins and losses. It can be really difficult.
“It’s really nice to hear that she’s feeling refreshed and has that perspective again. I think it’s really important for especially the younger players to keep that.”
Shelby Rogers is Raducanu’s first-round opponent— (Getty Images)
Accompanying Raducanu in Melbourne is new coach Nick Cavaday, who she originally worked with a decade ago.
Raducanu has returned to the tour with a determination to play her aggressive game style having felt she had unintentionally moved away from that.
Much has been made of the frequent changes in her coaching set-up, and she said: “I think it’s different styles of training, different styles of coaching. I think I play my best when I’m instinctive and free, and to be able to do that I need to put the time in on the practice court.
“I felt like I was chasing my tail a bit from tournament to tournament, and I wasn’t really doing the blocks of work in between, so I think just pausing and doing those physical things and on the practice court is something I’m going to do more of this year.
“With Nick, we both are very much aligned with how we see my tennis and my potential but potential is one thing so we have to do the work. I’m looking forward to doing it with him to get there. I need to be aggressive but find a balance, not just being a bull in a china shop.”
Coaching instability and Raducanu’s commercial activities have been central to the criticism that has rained down on her post-US Open.
Raducanu’s career continues to attract significant attention from far beyond the tennis world, and she said with a smile: “I guess I should feel flattered that they’re speaking about me. I think it affected me more straight after when I was a bit younger. Now I think I’m getting more and more immunised to it the more it goes on.”
The first British player in action on Sunday will be Jodie Burrage, who is making her debut in the main draw and will face German Tamara Korpatsch.