Wimbledon, and British Tennis Fans, See a Rising Star in Emma Raducanu


WIMBLEDON, England — To book a spot in the second week of Wimbledon, Emma Raducanu had to do something she said she had never done before.

“If you ask any of my team, I think they would say ‘She doesn’t run for balls,’” Raducanu said on Saturday with a grin. “If ever there was a time to start running, that was today. I’m happy that it paid off.”

Chasing down as many balls as she could on the low-bouncing grass of Wimbledon’s No. 1 Court and returning them at sharp angles, Raducanu defeated the 45th-ranked Sorana Cirstea 6-3, 7-5.

“It’s coming home!” one fan shouted during Raducanu’s win, appropriating the cheer often used for the England soccer team, which is also exciting a nation with its run to the semifinals of the European Championships.

Raducanu, 18, is still several steps from her own semifinal, but she has an opportunity to go further at Wimbledon than she might have imagined. She will play the 75th-ranked Ajla Tomljanovic on Monday in a match between the two lowest-ranked players remaining in the women’s singles draw.

Raducanu’s push into the fourth round is objectively impressive. This is only her second tour-level tournament, having made her debut last month in Nottingham, but it is part of a growing trend in women’s tennis in which experience seems to influence results less often.

Raducanu, a wild card, is one of four women into the fourth round of Wimbledon who have never played in the singles main draw before, showing how much has changed in the sport since the last Wimbledon was held two years ago.

One of them is the 14th-seeded Barbora Krejcikova, who a year ago had never been inside the top 100 in singles but arrived to Wimbledon as the unexpected winner of last month’s French Open and is also in her first main draw singles appearance here. The other seed making a deep run on her Wimbledon debut is the 18th-seeded Elena Rybakina, who lost in Wimbledon qualifying two years ago.

The other wild card into the fourth round is Liudmila Samsonova, an Italy-based Russian who surged to her first WTA title last month on the grass of Berlin, and scored impressive wins over the Americans Jessica Pegula and Sloane Stephens with her consistent power.

But no one is as unlikely as Raducanu.

“Who’d have thought?” she said in her on-court interview. “It’s funny, because at the beginning, when I was packing to come into the bubble, my parents were like, ‘Aren’t you packing too many sets of match kit?’ I think I’m going to have to do some laundry tonight.”

Raducanu cited two of her favorite players as Li Na and Simona Halep — those two two-time major champions represent the countries of Raducanu’s origin. Her father, Ian, is Romanian, and her mother, Renee, is Chinese.

“Those are two of my favorite players that I try to model my game after; I happen to have a connection to both those countries,” said Raducanu, who was born in Toronto and moved to London when she was 2 years old.

Children of immigrants like Raducanu have been a force across tennis in this generation; Canada, particularly, has surged onto the tennis map in recent years on the strength of first-generation players.

“I think it’s definitely helped me, the mentality that both of them bring,” Raducanu said of her parents, who both work in finance. “They both come from very hard-working countries. My mum, she’s always instilled a lot of discipline and respect for other people into me. I think having parents like I do, they always push me. They have high expectations. I’ve always tried to live up to that, and I hope I did them proud this week. I’m going to keep trying to keep going.”

Raducanu’s coach, Nigel Sears, has not been afraid to set the bar high.

“Quite frankly, I think the sky’s the limit,” Sears told reporters this week. “I thought that from Day 1.”

Sears, a British coach who has previously worked with players including Ana Ivanovic and Anett Kontaveit, gives Raducanu a direct line to British tennis royalty: His daughter, Kim, is married to Andy Murray. Raducanu and Murray have trained together, and he sent her a message of support after her second round win.

“I think that the most important thing when I’m given the opportunity, like I have been this week, is just to try and make the most out of it,” Raducanu said. “This is, like, my opportunity to show that I am there, that my level is there. So far, I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job. I just hope to make the people and everyone proud.”

Source : NYtimes