Emma Raducanu
Emma Raducanu will make her return to the court in Auckland next month. Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

British tennis star, Emma Raducanu, will look to put her injury woes behind her and return to her best when she makes her comeback early next year in the first week of January at the ASB Classic in Auckland.

The 2021 US Open Women's Singles Champion has not played a game of tennis on the WTA schedule since the opening round of the Stuttgart Open in April 2023, where she was knocked out in straight sets by Jelena Ostapenko.

Raducanu chose to take time away from the game to recover from long-standing issues with her wrists and got surgery for both hands after her exit at the Stuttgart Open.

Also, the 21-year-old opted to undergo surgery on her left ankle which he injured during the 2023 ASB Classic. The injury sustained in the second round caused Raducanu to retire in her match against Viktoria Hruncakova and subsequently exit the tournament.

The last tournament Raducanu officially entered was the Madrid Open in April this year, but she had to pull out of the competition just three-and-a-half hours before her scheduled first-round matchup with Viktoriya Tomova due to feeling discomfort in her right hand.

Both the wrist and ankle operations caused Raducanu to miss the remainder of the 2023 season, including the rest of the Grand Slam tournaments. The injury setbacks this year meant she only played ten matches, winning half of them.

Raducanu's only Grand Slam appearance in 2023 was at the Australian Open, where she was knocked out in the second round by the 2023 US Open Women's Singles champion, Coco Gauff.

Now, Raducanu is targeting an appearance at the 2024 Australian Open which starts on January 14th in Melbourne. However, her lack of minutes on the court in 2023 has caused her ranking to slip right down to 296 in the world, but her extended lay-off means she has a protected ranking of 103 to enter tournaments with.

Despite the protected ranking, it was still not enough to grant Raducanu a place in the main draw for next month's Australian Open, with her name not included on the recently revealed entry list for the tournament. Also, she has not been granted a wildcard spot for participation in the tournament as of yet, as those places typically get handed to home players.

Six Australian players, Kimberly Birrell, Taylah Preston, Olivia Gadecki, Adam Walton, James Duckworth and Marc Polmans, have been handed the first batch of wildcard sports for the Australian Open.

Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki, champion at the 2018 Australian Open, has also been handed a wildcard spot. The former world number one retired from tennis after the Australian Open in 2020 but reversed her decision as she returned to action this year, competing at the US Open.

As well as relying on getting a wildcard spot, Raducanu could also gain entry to the main draw for the Australian Open if there are a certain amount of player withdrawals from the competition. However, that seems unlikely. If neither of these options comes to fruition, Raducanu will have to navigate her way through the qualifying rounds to earn a spot in the main draw.

Qualifying for Grand Slam competitions has not been an issue before for Raducanu, as she worked her way through three rounds of qualifiers en route to winning the 2021 US Open. This made her the first player in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam having entered as a qualifier.

The qualifiers for the 2024 Australian Open will start on January 8th, just a day after the women's tournament at the ASB Classic concludes, with it wrapping up four days later.

This past summer, during her recuperation period, Raducanu split with her coach, Sebastian Sachs, making it the fifth coaching change she had made in just two years. It has not yet been confirmed who will be overseeing coaching duties for Raducanu from this moment onwards.

Raducanu has resumed training in London over the past few weeks at the National Tennis Centre under the guidance of staff from the Lawn Tennis Association.

As Raducanu looks to get back on the court ahead of a crucial 2024, finding a permanent long-term coach that suits her will be pivotal in helping the 21-year-old maximise her potential and compete against the world's best.

Despite spending much time off the court recently, Forbes reported that Raducanu earned just over £12 million in the past year, making her the second-highest-paid female tennis player in the world. Just £237,000 of that figure was from on-court earnings with the rest coming from lucrative endorsement deals with brands such as Nike, Evian, Dior, Tiffany, Porsche, British Airways and HSBC.

Elsewhere, the upcoming Australian Open is set to be the stage for Rafael Nadal's return to tennis as the Spaniard has been sidelined with a hip injury sustained in a second-round exit at the 2023 Australian Open. Nadal has previously hinted at retiring after the conclusion of the 2024 season.