Britain's Emma Raducanu said she feels "reborn" as the former U.S. Open champion prepares to return to action at next week's Auckland Classic following ankle and wrist surgeries.
The 21-year-old missed much of 2023 after operations on both wrists and an ankle but will return to Auckland with a protected ranking a year after she exited the tournament in tears having rolled her ankle during a second round match.
"Yeah, I feel reborn in a way. I feel fresh, I feel ready, I feel happy and I feel excited," Raducanu said.
Raducanu is now ranked 298th in the world, having slipped from a career high number 10 in July 2022.
She missed out on a wildcard for the Australian Open which begins on Jan. 14 and will have to take a similar path as her 2021 Flushing Meadows run, when she became the first player in the Open Era to win a major after coming through qualifying.
She said she no longer felt weighed down by the expectations that followed her New York triumph.
"Overall, I'm feeling positive and lighter. I think that for two years after the U.S. Open I felt maybe a bit more weight on my shoulders, but now I feel completely fresh," Raducanu said.
Raducanu has not crossed the second round of a Grand Slam since her Flushing Meadows triumph and has come in for her fair share of criticism but said she was happy to be fit and ready to compete again.
"It's nice not to have three casts on you," she added. "So just moving around and showering, (doing) everything you really appreciate, being able to do your own hair, stuff like that.
"I'm just happy to be back playing."
The Auckland Classic began on Monday.
Raducanu plays Romanian Elena-Gabriela Ruse in the first round with either Caroline Wozniacki or Eliva Svitolina awaiting in the second round.