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Emma Raducanu can be among the best in the world if she stays fit – Jack Draper

By Sports Desk December 14, 2023

Jack Draper has no doubt Emma Raducanu will get back to the top of the game.

The former US Open champion is preparing to make her comeback after eight months on the sidelines following operations on both wrists and one ankle.

Raducanu, now ranked down at 298, has been training ahead of her first tournament back in Auckland in a couple of weeks’ time but still does not have a coach or a settled team around her.

Draper knows Raducanu well having grown up with her in juniors as the standout British hopes, and he said: “Obviously, when she’s fit, she’s an incredible player.

“She’s been struggling with injuries for a long time. I think people forget that before the US Open she was still in school. She didn’t have a lot of training. Obviously, she had that huge run and achieved what people dream of achieving in their whole career.

“And then I think to expect so much of her after that is a bit of a mistake because she hasn’t maybe got a lot of that physical foundation and the experience of playing on the tour and all those things that all those other players have.

“But I think the talent that she’s got and the maturity as well to do what she did at the US Open is off the charts.

 

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“I think if she can get herself to being at a good fitness level where she’s built up that resilience over months and years and keeps working on her game, she’ll be right up there with the best in the world and she’ll be competing for grand slams again.

“She’s motivated to want to come back. I don’t know how she’s going to get on but I know that, at some point next year, the year after that, she’s going to be back to being in those finals and those big positions because she’s got everything it takes. It’s just a matter of when.”

Draper can certainly empathise with Raducanu’s fitness struggles having spent much of this year on the sidelines himself.

A lingering hip problem, an abdominal injury and illness limited him to five tournaments over the first four-and-a-half months of the season before he damaged a tendon in his shoulder at the French Open and was forced to miss Wimbledon.

But, since returning in mid-August, Draper has again showed what an exciting talent he is, making the fourth round at the US Open and then reaching his first ATP Tour final in Bulgaria last month.

His ranking, which had plummeted to 123 from a high of 38 in February, is now back up to 61, and the 21-year-old is optimistic his ‘Mr Injured’ tag is behind him.

“I’ve always worked really hard, I’ve always tried to do the right things for my body,” he said.

“And this year I was really excited to see what happened but it just seemed like I kept on getting injured. I think some of it could have been to do with the fact that at the end of last year I changed fitness trainer and the guy was well respected.

 

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“I loved him to bits and we put in a lot of great work, but I just don’t think it was maybe the right work for me. And so my body kind of broke down.

“I think now, especially after having all those injuries, what’s a positive in it is that I understand my body a whole lot better now. So I feel like, in terms of the body stuff, I’m in a great place.”

Draper is playing catch-up to the likes of Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, who are similar in age and have already established themselves at the top of the sport.

“I want to be competing with those two,” he said. “That’s kind of my benchmark of where I want to get to. I see myself being right up there with them. It’s just my past has been a little bit different. I’ve had certain things that have held me back.

“Next year, I want to be top 20 in the world. I want to stay injury free. I want to make sure that I’m able to play five sets in the grand slams without breaking down physically.

“I feel like I’ve got great people around me, I’ve got the mindset where I want to achieve great things. It’s just fulfilling my potential, whatever that looks like.”

Watching from the sidelines gave Draper the chance to reflect on his career so far, and he added: “I’ve had a bit of a mindset shift in terms of my perspective on life.

“And I feel like that’s a big part of why I’ve come back so quickly is because I feel like I’m a much better player now than I was when I was 38 in the world.”

Draper will spend Christmas at home before travelling to Australia on December 29 ahead of his first tournament in Adelaide beginning on January 8.

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