Emma Raducanu's hopes of participating at this month's Australian Open appear to be hanging in the balance after she suffered an injury scare at the WTA Auckland Open on Thursday.
The British number one was forced to retire early in the deciding set of her second-round match against Viktoria Kuzmova due to an ankle injury and she left the court in tears with the opening Grand Slam of the year due to get underway in just 11 days' time.
This is the latest in a growing list of injury setbacks that Raducanu has suffered since she claimed her breakthrough victory at the 2021 US Open, but as it stands, she has not officially withdrawn from the Australian Open and is to go on and win the Melbourne showpiece.
|Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia
|Monday 16th January - Sunday 29th January
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|Iga Swiatek 13/8, Caroline Garcia 12/1, Aryna Sabalenka 12/1, Ons Jabeur 12/1, Coco Gauff
Things appeared to be going smoothly for Raducanu in Auckland, as she won her opening match of the tournament in relatively straightforward fashion despite being taken to three sets by Czech teenager Linda Fruhvirtova.
Another victory appeared to be on the cards when she comfortably took the first set against world number 134 Kuzmova 6-0, but she then dropped a much tighter second set, losing it 7-5, and she received treatment on her ankle ahead of the third set getting underway.
That third set did not last very long, as clearly in too much pain to continue, Raducanu retired after just one point of the decider and she proceeded to leave the court in tears.
With the draw for the Australian Open set to be made on 12th January and the tournament itself due to get underway just four days later, Raducanu now faces a race against time to prove her fitness, but the on-court tears would suggest she is fearing for her involvement.
Unfortunately injury problems are becoming a recurring theme for 20-year-old Raducanu, who has now been forced to retire or withdraw from matches seven times since she broke onto the scene on the WTA Tour less than two years ago.
Raducanu's first retirement actually came at her breakthrough event, as after making it through to the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2021, she was forced to pull out of her clash with Ajla Tomljanovic due to breathing difficulties.
The Brit then had no further fitness concerns during 2021, as she went on to defy expectations by triumphing at the US Open after beating Leylah Fernandez in the final to become the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam event.
However, 2022 was not as successful for Raducanu, as she was forced to retire from no fewer than five events across the year, beginning with her opening match at the Abierto Zapopan in February.
Raducanu also withdrew from the Italian and Nottingham Opens, as well as the Korea Open, while she was forced to pull out of the Transylvania Open even before contesting her opening match.
Perhaps most concerningly for Raducanu, she has been forced to withdraw from all these events due to different injury issues, with the ankle problem sustained in Auckland the latest to dent her progress.
Raducanu will need to have her ankle assessed before a decision is made on her participation at the Australian Open and she has previously said she will not 'Google doctor' herself and will instead leave such calls to the professionals.
Her injury issues, coupled with an overall drop in form since she landed her shock Grand Slam success at the US Open, mean Raducanu is currently ranked 78th in the world, so, regardless of if she is passed fit for the Melbourne event, she is likely to face a tough route through to the latter stages.
Ashleigh Barty is the defending champion, but she retired soon after her success in Melbourne last year, with current world number one Iga Swiatek, who won two of the three other Grand Slams in 2022, perhaps the one to beat at odds of .
Caroline Garcia (12/1), Aryna Sabalenka (12/1), Ons Jabeur (12/1) and Coco Gauff (16/1) are tipped to be among the other contenders, while two-time Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka () cannot be overlooked.