Australian Open draw: Emma Raducanu faces Sloane Stephens in tough first round tie

Djokovic admits attending interview while Covid positive

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Emma Raducanu will face the new wife of former Sunderland and Hull striker Jozy Altidore in the first round of the Australian Open, Sloane Stephens. The 2021 US Open champion plays the 2017 New York champion Stephens in her first Grand Slam match since her own Flushing Meadows triumph.

The British No 1 has struggled for form as a Grand Slam champion. And the Bromley teenager lost 6-0 6-1 to world No 13 Elena Rybakina in Sydney in her first match since recovering from a bout of coronavirus.

But Stephens, 28, has won only one WTA match – against Heather Watson in Indian Wells – since the US Open as her world ranking slid down to world No 68.

And the former world No 3 arrives Down Under after her New Year’s Day wedding to USA striker Altidore in Miami.

Stephens and Altidore first met at school at Boca Prep in Florida – and then met again in 2016 and announced their engagement in 2019 but had to delay the wedding because of COVID-19.

“I empathise with all the COVID couples out there who have had to make the tough calls and be flexible with the ever-changing pandemic,” Stephens said.

“We’ve all had to be super flexible, and I appreciate how accommodating our loved ones have been in making sure we have as safe and special a day as possible,”

She added “We both have incredible, crazy jobs and lives, and knowing that through it all, we have each other as our constant and true home base is such a comforting feeling.

“I really liked the symbolism of starting a new year completely fresh with a new beginning—plus I fly to Australia to start my season soon so this is what needed to happen!”

Altidore scored only two league goals in English football with his two clubs but has enjoyed better success back in the MLS with Toronto FC.

The American forward was the MLS Cup MVP when the Canadian franchise won the 2017 MLS Cup.

Speaking at the wedding, Altidore joked: “The date will make our anniversary easy to remember!

“Since we both grew up in South Florida, Miami was the perfect place to bring our families together, and January is the best time of year to be there.

“To be honest I can’t take much credit here. I just wanted the day and the time leading up to our wedding to be what Sloane always wanted. I’m so happy everything came together so smoothly and see the joy it brought her and all of our loved ones.”

The Australian Open gets underway next week, but it is still not yet clear whether or not reigning men’s champion Novak Djokovic will be taking part, with a decision expected today over whether he will be deported. 

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