Evert fears Emma Raducanu ‘can’t be very confident’ ahead of Australian Open

Four months on from her fairytale triumph at the 2021 US Open, Emma Raducanu will celebrate another tennis first as she makes her Australian Open debut against Sloane Stephens on Tuesday.

In what will be her first Grand Slam test since winning at Flushing Meadows, the British sensation will once again seek to silence her doubters and prove she belongs among the majors.

But tennis Hall of Famer Chris Evert has suggested it's still premature for Raducanu to be dreaming of more Grand Slam honours given her inexperience, with this being only her third appearance in a major draw.

The 19-year-old has been handed the No. 17 seed in the women's bracket as she takes on 2017 US Open champions Stephens.

And while Raducanu may be considered a slim favourite to best unseeded opponent Stephens, Evert wondered whether her unexpected US Open title has skewed the pre-match billing.

"There’s a lot of pressure and she can’t have that much confidence going into this tournament because she hasn’t won a lot of tournaments," she said on Eurosport's coverage of the Australian Open.

"You just hope when somebody is ranked outside of the top 100 and they win a Grand Slam, you kind of wonder, are they an outlier or are they meant to be winning the U.S. Open?

"And I just don’t know, if it happened too early for her, maybe a lot of people would think that, but everybody’s gunning for [her]."

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Raducanu is unfortunate to have drawn one of only two unseeded major-winners in the women's bracket, the other being 2011 US. Open champion Sam Stosur.

Despite the fact she and Stephens boast the same number of Grand Slam titles, Evert flagged the need to caution going up against such an accomplished first-round foe.

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"[Stephens] is a Grand Slam winner, and in the first round that’s about as tough a first round as [Raducanu] could get," the 67-year-old added.

Evert was 19 when she won the first of her 18 Grand Slam titles at the 1974 French Open, one year older than Raducanu was when she topped the podium in New York this past September.

However, she was only 16 when she first appeared in the Grand Slam semi-finals and lost three finals in less than a year before she finally lifted the top prize at Roland Garros.

Raducanu's own preparations ahead of the Australian Open can't compare having gone 2-4 in matches since winning the US crown in just her second Grand Slam appearance.

Her most recent result as a 6-0, 6-1 defeat at the hands of Elena Rybakina in the Sydney Tennis Classic last week, boosting Stephens' prospects of causing a minor upset at the first hurdle.

The winner of their first-round fixture will advance to face either Su Jeong Jang or Danka Kovinic in the next stage, with Raducanu having reached at least the fourth in each of the past two majors.

Given she's still only at the genesis of her career, Raducanu is under no pressure in regards to timing, although there will be a natural weight of expectation after exploding into the spotlight last year.

Now that the veil of anonymity has been lifted, however, Raducanu is tasked with living up to loftier expectations against the elite, beginning with a testing encounter with Stephens in Melbourne.

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