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A very different Wimbledon experience ahead for home hope Raducanu

LONDON: Can it really be only 12 months ago that Emma Raducanu introduced herself to Wimbledon as a beaming, joyous 18-year-old happy to even be invited to the tournament on the back of a WTA career consisting of one match and one straight-sets defeat.

Raducanu's unexpected charge to the fourth round made her front-page news but the teenager then retired mid-match with "breathing difficulties" in something of an anti-climax.

Many expected her to disappear as quickly as she had appeared - just the latest in a painfully long line of British women failing to even challenge for the Venus Rosewater Dish last lifted by Virginia Wade in 1977, let alone win it.

Two months later, however, Raducanu had blasted herself into the consciousness of the world way beyond tennis, astonishingly winning the US Open as a 150th-ranked qualifier - without dropping a set - in an achievement widely and rightly ranked among the absolute peaks of any other sport.

Her fearless free hitting and apparent lack of nerves won her legions of sporting admirers, while her fresh-faced smiling, charm, relaxed, modest conversation and Anglo-Canadian/Chinese/Romanian heritage produced an instant queue of high-end sponsors eager to align with the exciting youngster.

It was no surprise that Raducanu failed to back up that victory with more success, but few would have expected her to struggle so much to find consistency the following year.

Amid a succession of injuries, together with regular changes of coach, she has failed to win more than two back-to-back matches in any tournament.

Raducanu has said she struggled to adjust to the physical demands of the intensity of the WTA Tour and feels the time lost during COVID-19 hampered her physical development. As always, however, she looked for the positives as Wimbledon draws into view.


"It's been a crazy year that's for sure," she said. "I'm definitely proud of the year I've had and I've learned a lot.

"Of course, I wouldn't change that trajectory but it means I need to be patient with my body. Obviously there have been challenges as well but I think I have learned how to deal with setbacks well and also how to manage my time a bit better," said the Briton who was beaten in the second round at this year's Australia and French Opens.

She has suffered from blisters on her racket hand and her feet, a hip injury plus back pain and withdrew from her opening round match in the Nottingham grass tournament this month due to a side strain. That also ruled her out of the Birmingham and Eastbourne warm-up events, giving her a total of seven games in 35 minutes of grass court play this year.

Consequently, Raducanu will arrive at Wimbledon as the ludicrously under-prepared number 10 seed - with packed Centre Court crowds and the nation's armchair fans oozing a level of expectation already at Andy Murray proportions.

Potentially more problematic for Raducanu's prospects of again making the second week, though, is that she is no longer the new girl on the Tour.

"She set the bar pretty high. She's won the U.S Open already, so everybody's after her," said former British number one John Lloyd. "The other players have learnt about her, coaches have taught them how to play against her.

"It may be tough but from what I've seen and from what people have told me about her I don't think she'll be a one-slam wonder."

Source: Reuters/zl


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