Sore star Emma Raducanu pulls out of Kooyong Classic

Former US Open champion Emma Raducanu has withdrawn from her final warm-up match before the Australian Open as she continues to battle soreness ahead of her first grand slam in 12 months.

Raducanu, the 2021 US Open winner, cancelled her appearance at the Kooyong Classic on Wednesday less than 24 hours after she pulled out of a charity game at Melbourne Park.

The match had to be scrapped entirely hours before its start because Raducanu’s intended opponent, Naomi Osaka, had also withdrawn as a “precautionary measure” before being replaced by Croatian world no. 25 Donna Vekic.

Raducanu’s 2023 season was wiped out after she underwent surgery on a right ankle injury sustained at last year’s Open and had operations on both wrists to remove small bone growths which had been causing her pain.

The 21-year-old British star played two matches at the ASB Classic in Auckland last week and took a set off world no. 23 Elina Svitolina before showing signs of back soreness as she succumbed to a 6-1 loss in the final set.

Kooyong Classic organisers said Raducanu had pulled out of the tournament along with Spanish star Paula Badosa “due to injury”.

The pair had been set to face each other on Thursday in an exhibition match, with their withdrawals a major blow for the event which has struggled to attract top female players in recent times.

West Australian teenager Taylah Preston played Czechia’s Linda Fruhvirtova on Wednesday morning, while Russian 16-year-old prodigy Mirra Andreeva had been set to face Raducanu on Thursday and will likely play a new opponent.

The gulf in class compared to the men’s draw including six top 20-ranked players and decorated veterans Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem was stark, but tournament director Peter Johnston said the small field was due to strict WTA rules which made it more difficult to play in non-tour sanctioned tournaments than for men.

“We know how much our fans have loved seeing women competing in recent editions of the Care Wellness Kooyong Classic,” Johnston said last month.

“Some of the greatest female players in history have been champions when the Australian Open was played at Kooyong and we want to continue to link to that heritage.

“We just need to wait on some scheduling decisions by players to determine what we are permitted to do whist being respectful to the WTA rules.”

Murray took to the court on Wednesday but was beaten 6-3, 7-5 by Croatian veteran Marin Cilic, who is entering the Open using a protected ranking after injuries cruelled his 2023 campaign.

World no. 4 Jannik Sinner had taken to Kooyong’s centre court earlier and thrashed Australian entrant Marc Polmans 6-4, 6-0.

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