Emma Radukanu has struggled to live up to sky-high expectations since winning her first Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows last year but Britain says she is not worried about her poor form and will play without pressure at the Australian Open.
Radukanu, who faced American Sloane Stephens in the first round at Melbourne Park, became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam in the Open era when she defeated Lelah Fernandez in New York last September.
But she struggled to get closer to that form in subsequent tournaments and encouraged criticism, while a positive test for COVID-19 at Christmas also affected her preparations for the new season.
“I think over the last few months, maybe I haven’t played as much as I would have liked and I could have trained so much,” said Radukanu, ranked 17th in Melbourne.
“It simply came to our notice then. I’m happy to be here and get the swing. I had to jump over obstacles to play here, so (I) just want to get out of there and have fun on the court. “
The 19-year-old played her first match of the year in Sydney last Tuesday and lost 6-0 6-1 to Kazakh Elena Rybaki, a defeat that put the debris down instead of any delayed effects of the Covid-19.
“It was definitely a lack of practice,” she said. “I think I probably haven’t played six, seven, really many hours.
“I was not physically tested in that match, the points were exhausted very quickly.
“It would be good to keep building and see. I am currently feeling well. “
Radukanu has been assigned a tough opening round draw against 2017 US Open winner Stephens, who is ranked 65th in the world but third.
“I saw Sloane win the US Open,” Radukanu said.
“I really hit with it last year. Great opponent. Obviously you can’t win a Grand Slam without being very capable.
“I think it will definitely be a difficult match. I’m going to go out there and enjoy the match because just playing in this Grand Slam I had to work hard to get here. “