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Emma Raducanu 'having a blast' as she secures gutsy first win in Auckland after eight months out

Emma Raducanu celebrated her long-awaited return from injury with a gutsy three-set win over Elena-Gabriela Ruse in the first round of the ASB Classic in Auckland.

The former British number one, who was playing her first match since April following operations on both her wrists and one ankle, held off a fightback from the Romanian qualifier to progress 6-3 4-6 7-5.

Her preparations for the upcoming Australian Open will continue with a tough last-16 tie against second seed Elina Svitolina.

"It's difficult after having such a long hiatus but I'm grateful to be healthy, I'm grateful to be able to move my body and not bedridden or in a wheelchair," Raducanu said on court after victory in two hours and 27 minutes.

"It's pretty amazing to just be out here and playing and I'm just really happy to be back on the tour and can't wait to start this season and carry on hopefully injury-free and healthy."

Tournament wild card Raducanu, who had dropped to 301st in the world rankings, resumed her stalled career claiming to feel "reborn" and freed from the weight of her headline-grabbing US Open triumph in 2021.

Having managed only nine matches in 2023, she initially showed few signs of rustiness as she wrapped up the opening set in 37 minutes after capitalising on her third break point in game eight.

Yet any hopes of straightforward progression were quickly dashed as Ruse responded.

The world number 134 doggedly saved three break points in an 11-minute opening game of the second set before winning two of Raducanu's next three service games to shift the momentum.

At 5-2 down, Raducanu demonstrated resilience to return the match to serve but then failed to hold as it went to a decider.

The 21-year-old showed flashes of her best throughout the contest, including a delightful backhand slice winner, and would not be denied, despite the best efforts of the determined Ruse.

She blew a 5-2 lead in the final set and failed to capitalise on two match points on her opponent's serve before digging in to ensure eight months on the sidelines culminated in an encouraging comeback victory.

"Thank you to everyone for coming out and staying late and cold, I really appreciate the support throughout," added Raducanu.

"It was a match with ups and downs and always difficult playing a friend in Gabi.

"I love being back in Auckland, I'm having a blast so far, so thank you and see you in the next round."

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