MELBOURNE: Emma Raducanu says a key lesson from her first Australian Open is that "I've got that fight in me" after the teenager adapted her game and gritted her teeth to play through pain with nasty blisters.
It wasn't enough for the 19-year-old US Open champion to stay in the hunt for a second Grand Slam title, falling 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to Montenegro's Danka Kovinic, but she said the experience was invaluable.
"I really enjoy playing the Grand Slams, I think that the takeaway is (it's) tough," she said.
"I still think I can take some positives out of it. You know, I did discover elements of my game I didn't know I had before, and I can use that going forward.
"And also, I just know that I've got that fight in me, even if I have got, like, one shot, I know that I can pull myself out of deep situations."
The blisters on her right, racquet hand, had been getting progressively worse since her arrival in Australia, to the point where some on her team had urged her not to play.
But she was determined to keep going and skilfully changed tactics against Kovinic, demonstrating her tenacity and intelligence in terms of problem-solving.
Unable to grip the racquet properly to hammer forehands and backhands, she increasingly employed drops shots and slices to protect the injury, which proved effective in the second set until she tired in the third.
"I definitely think that the variety helps. I think that maybe some of the girls aren't used to it," she said.
Element of surprise
"That was probably an element of surprise for my opponent who wasn't expecting me to be doing that.
"It was pretty effective, so if I can mix that with my aggressive game style, I think that would be a really good and dangerous combination going forward."
Raducanu, the first British woman to win a Grand Slam since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977, came into the tournament after contracting Covid-19, but she refused to blame it for her defeat.
She did admit, though, that she needed to work on her fitness, feeling the effects of having to run so much when using the slice shot as frequently as she did.
"It definitely took its toll towards the end of the third set. I was really feeling it physically," she said.
"I'm going to for sure get fit just playing tournaments week in, week out. I was on court for two hours 40 (minutes), so that's got to do something for my fitness. But I really feel like I need to dedicate some time to it, as well."
Raducanu is embarking on her first full season on the WTA Tour, with new coach Torben Beltz by her side.
She is undecided where she will next play, but pointed to "some tournaments in Mexico or the Middle East, and it's just a matter of that before Indian Wells".