Emma Who? Wimbledon Crowds Behind Raducanu

Emma Raducanu (photo: Wimbledon video)

LONDON/WASHINGTON, July 4, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

One of the feel-good stories to emerge from the first week of the Wimbledon Championships fortnight has been the emergence of Great Britain’s Emma Raducanu. Emma who?

Imagine you’re just 18-years-old, only recently sat for your school A-Level exams in maths and economics and, suddenly, you’ve been thrusted into the national spotlight a day after Great Britain’s finest, Andy Murray, was eliminated. That sums up the 338th-ranked wild card Raducanu in a nutshell. Oh, and she’s also won three straight matches against better-ranked opponents to reach the fourth round of The Championships – and has an infectious smile.

“I was just so excited. When I heard the crowd roar for the first time, I was like, ‘Wow, they’re so behind me.’ I was just feeding off their energy,” Raducanu recalled during her post-match press conference after defeating No. 45 Sorana Cirstea, 13 years her senior, 6-3, 7-5, Saturday afternoon on No. 1 Court, the second biggest show court at the All England Club. “I’m just so excited I get to play in front of them again.”

Raducanu exhibited good qualities throughout her one hour and 41-minute victory that showed it was no fluke: good serving and returning as well as outstanding movement. Raducanu served four aces and hit 30 winners while winning 83 percent (29 of 35) of her first-serve points. She also won 49 percent (48 of 97) of her return points and outpointed Cirstea 84-65.

Raducanu described how on Friday she stopped in on No. 1 Court and sat courtside for about five minutes in order to soak up the environment. “They let me get a feel for the court, which I think was very valuable because when I went out there today, I sort of knew what to expect a little bit,” she recalled.

“I thought, ‘If I’m not going to enjoy Court 1 at Wimbledon, home crowd, like what are you going to enjoy?’ This is the cherry at the top of tennis.”

During the first week of the ladies’ singles draw, Raducanu has garnered consecutive victories without losing a set against 150th-ranked qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko of Russia, 7-6 (4), 6-0; No. 42 Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-4; and Cirstea. She had never beaten a Top 100 opponent before this week.

“I knew Sorana was a very tough opponent,” Raducanu said. “I just thought that playing on Court 1 at Wimbledon is what you dream of. Not many people get the opportunity to. I was like, ‘Wow, this is such an experience, such an opportunity.’

“I just thought, ‘Well, I’m just going to go out there and have fun,’ I really think I did. I’d never played such good tennis in some of the points. I was just having so much fun.”

With her third-round victory over Cirstea, Raducanu became the youngest British woman to reach the Wimbledon fourth round in the Open Era (since 1968), and it guarantees her ranking will rise into the WTA Top 200. In Monday’s fourth round, Raducanu will face 75th-ranked Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia for a spot in the quarterfinal round. And guess what? She’ll be back on No. 1 Court.

Just who is Raducanu? She was born in 2002 in Toronto to a Chinese mother and Romanian father, then moved to the United Kingdom at age two and grew up in London. She began playing tennis at age five at the Bromley Tennis Academy, and with family ties in Romania, not only became fond of Romanian cuisine but also of Simona Halep, the World No. 3 star who hails from Romania, whom she has tried to model her game after.

Since turning pro, Raducanu has won three ITF Circuit singles titles and last month made her WTA main draw debut on grass at the Viking Open in Nottingham, England, gaining a wild card.

With her sudden success at Wimbledon, just her second tour-level event, Raducanu said, “I’ve actually received a few emails from my school teachers. My maths teacher emailed me today congratulating me. It’s been great to receive messages from my schoolmates as well. They’ve been texting me.”

During her on-court interview following her win Saturday, Raducanu was asked to reflect on what it meant to her to be into the second week of her first Grand Slam. She thought about the question and laughed, then mused: “It’s funny because when I was packing to come into the bubble, my parents said, ‘Aren’t you packing too many sets of match kit?’

“I think I’m going to have to do some laundry tonight but I think they have a laundry service at the hotel. So, I’m all good.”

Indeed, life is good for Emma Raducanu.

Medvedev: Roars to victory and into the second week

Men’s No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia came back from two sets down to pull out a 6-7 (3), 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 32 seed Marin Cilic from Croatia in three hours and 40 minutes Saturday evening to advance to the fourth round. It’s the first time in his career that Medvedev has won a five-set match in which he’s trailed 0-2.

Saturday’s Wimbledon results 

Monday’s Wimbledon order of play

By the numbers

“Quotable …” 

“Emma is fearless, an incredible competitor. She has a great head on her shoulders and seems very grounded. She has the defense, the offense, the even-keeled temperament, seeming to have the right level of engagement and clarity of how she wants to play.”

– Tracy Austin, Hall of Famer and tennis broadcaster, on Emma Raducanu. Austin commented on Raducanu’s win over Sorana Cirstea for the BBC.