Emma Raducanu will return to action on Tuesday when she makes her Australian Open debut.
The British number one has been preparing for the third Grand Slam tournament of her career, where she will face USA’s Sloane Stephens in the first round.
Raducanu has some ground to make up after enduring a dip in form since returning from the US Open, where she stunned the world with her historic triumph.
The 19-year-old’s run at Flushing Meadows was a spectacle to behold. She went from a plucky teenage underdog, to one of the most talked about sports stars on the planet.
Raducanu became the first qualifier in history to win a Grand Slam after she beat Leylah Fernandez in the US Open final. Her victory saw her skyrocket through the world rankings and land herself a number of lucrative endorsement deals.
However, since returning from New York, the world number 18 has struggled on the court. Her performances have looked a shadow of those she produced at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, which has led to some heavy criticism.
England Rugby head coach Eddie Jones suggested Raducanu had lost focus of her game after signing partnerships with the likes of Dior, Tiffany & Co. and British Airways.
Swedish ex-tennis star Mats Wilander also recently claimed the Brit is yet to earn the respect of her fellow players.
But despite the criticism, there are still high profile icons of both past and present who continue to back the young trailblazer.
Tim Henman has described Raducanu as being on a “steep learning curve” and has implored others to be patient with her as she enters her first full WTA Tour season.
“This is only her third Grand Slam. She has played two of them before and won one of them. It is amazing how she has burst onto the scene,” he told Tennis365.
“She is a very, very good player, but she has a lot to learn. If results don’t go her way in the early part of the season, it doesn’t mean she isn’t going to be a great player in the future.
“She has to keep learning, keep working hard, doing the right things and results will come.”
Since claiming the US Open title, Raducanu has failed to make it past the quarter-finals. Her most recent match saw her completely outplayed by Russia’s Elena Rybakina, who thrashed the Brit 6-0, 6-1 at the Sydney International.
Raducanu’s pre-Australian Open matches have not given her the results she may have wanted, but Henman is still adamant there’s a lot to come from the rising star.
The former world number four was courtside during Raducanu’s US Open run and reflected on the tournament as the best event he has ever watched.
“I loved being on the side of the court and watching the way she played. It was absolutely incredible, her performance.
“You look at her journey through the three weeks and the ten matches without dropping a set and I felt very privileged to be courtside. Whether I was able to support her or help her is a moot point. It was all about her. She was out there delivering the goods on the court.”
The Australian Open will get underway on Monday, January 17th and all eyes will be on whether Naomi Osaka can defend her title or if a new champion will be crowned.