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Raducanu is ready to perform at the Australian Open without having to exert pressure

Raducanu is ready to perform at the Australian Open without having to exert pressure

MELBOURNE, January 15 (Reuters) - Emma Raducanu has struggled to meet expectations since winning her maiden Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows last year, but the Briton says she is not worried about her poor form and will compete without pressure at the Australian Open.

Raducanu, who takes on American Sloane Stephens in the first round at Melbourne Park, is the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam in the Open era when she defeated Leylah Fernandez in New York in September.

However, she struggled to get close to the tournament in the future with a series of early departures prompting criticism, while testing positive for COVID-19 at Christmas also impacted her preparations for the new season.

Raducanu, who is ranked 17th in Melbourne, feels that due to the last few months I've had, perhaps I haven't played as much as I would have liked to and trained so much.

"I'm just happy to be here and have a swing. I had to jump a few hurdles to play here, so (i) want to go out there and have fun and enjoy on the court."

The 19-year-old won her first match of the year in Sydney last Tuesday, losing 6-0 to Kazakh Elena Rybakina, despite rustiness rather than any of the COVID-19 events.

"It was certainly a lack of practice," she said. "I think I played maybe six, seven, really not many hours at all.

"I wasn't physically tested in that match, the points were over so quickly.

"I'm currently feeling physically well," says one writer.

Raducanu will face Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open winner, in a tough opening round.

Raducanu said: "I watched Sloane win the US Open.

"I'm a big fan of the last year. I'm a great match, but there is no shortage of people in the world.

"I think this will be a tough match for sure. I'm going to go out there and enjoy the match because just playing in this Grand Slam, I had to work so hard to be here."

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