Emma Raducanu demonstrates remarkable resilience to defeat Gabriela Ruse in the Auckland Classic.

Emma Raducanu celebrated her highly anticipated return from injury by securing a courageous three-set victory over Elena-Gabriela Ruse in the opening round of the ASB Classic in Auckland.

The former top-ranked British player, who played her first match since April following surgeries on both wrists and one ankle, successfully fought off a comeback from the Romanian qualifier to advance with a score of 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. Her preparations for the upcoming Australian Open will continue with a challenging last-16 match against second-seeded Elina Svitolina.

“After such a long break, it’s challenging, but I’m thankful to be healthy. I’m grateful that I can move freely and not confined to a bed or wheelchair,” said Raducanu after her two-hour and 27-minute victory.

“It’s truly incredible to be out here playing, and I’m extremely happy to be back on the tour. I’m looking forward to starting this season and hopefully continuing without any injuries or health issues.”

The tournament wildcard Raducanu, who had dropped to 301st in the world rankings, described herself as feeling “reborn” and relieved from the pressure of her headline-grabbing triumph at the US Open in 2021.

Despite having played only nine matches in 2023, she initially showed little signs of rustiness as she clinched the first set in just 37 minutes, capitalizing on her third break point in the eighth game.

However, her path to straightforward progression quickly disappeared as Ruse fought back.

The 134th-ranked player in the world tenaciously saved three break points in an 11-minute opening game of the second set and then won two of Raducanu’s next three service games, shifting the momentum in her favor.

Although Raducanu managed to bring the match back to serve when trailing 5-2, she was unable to hold on, resulting in a decider. Throughout the contest, the 21-year-old displayed glimpses of her best form, including a delightful backhand slice winner. Despite the determined efforts of Ruse, Raducanu refused to be denied.

Having surrendered a 5-2 lead in the final set and failing to convert two match points on her opponent’s serve, Raducanu dug deep to ensure that her eight-month hiatus culminated in an encouraging comeback victory.

“I want to express my gratitude to everyone who came out and stayed late in the cold. I truly appreciate the support,” added Raducanu.

“It was a challenging match with ups and downs, especially since I was playing against a friend in Gabi. I’m enjoying my time back in Auckland so far, so thank you, and I’ll see you in the next round.”

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