Emma Raducanu insists she’s in top form ahead of her Wimbledon center court debut
Light, camera, action! Emma Raducanu said on Saturday night that she would be ready for her first-ever appearance on center court.
After a week of uncertainty, the US Open champion assured us she will be fit for Monday’s first round at Wimbledon, hoping to complete a match for the first time since May 25.
His tone was much more upbeat than some of his body language was on the SW19 training grounds.
Emma Raducanu says she is fit and ready for her Wimbledon Center Court debut on Monday
She will be part of a successful matchday one line-up between defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
Raducanu paused before asking what it was all about and admitted that there was not always a guarantee that she would recover sufficiently from her side strain.
“This week has been a good preparation,” she insisted. “There were times earlier in the week that we weren’t really sure. We were going to kind of see how the week goes, but it went pretty well. Now it’s full steam ahead.
Raducanu encouraged doubts with his unexplained absence from a training session on Friday.
“Yesterday we just had to react to the situation. I was already training in the morning, so we all collectively thought it was the best decision to skip the afternoon session and stay fresh,” she explained.
Raducanu is still at the stage where she is an odd mix of being a Grand Slam champion while accumulating new experiences.
Raducanu raised the alarm by withdrawing from a second training session scheduled for Friday
A crowded center court will be one, as Saturday was the first time she had been in Wimbledon’s main media auditorium with people actually allowed in, rather than everything taking place via remote video. There is always a sense of wonder in mingling with the legends of the sport.
She said: “I’m 19. Just watching Rafa and Novak so closely, being able to try and learn from them, walking among these great players, it’s always special.”
“I don’t think it really changes when you look at these big names. It’s amazing to have them around setting such a good example.
“It’s only my second Wimbledon and I’m still really new to it.”
Despite all that bullish talk, she has one of the toughest first-round draws against World No. 46 Alison Van Uytvanck, who won a grass-court tournament this summer.
Raducanu said: “I played her in August last year. She was the top seed at the time (Raducanu won in straight sets). Game-wise, I defend against anybody. I think if I really put my mind to it and commit, then I can be pretty good.
Raducanu will face the dangerous Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck (pictured) on Monday afternoon
“She’s a very tricky opponent, especially on grass. This surface definitely suits her. She plays a fairly quick and rhythmic game.
The true picture of Raducanu’s game is difficult to assess, given how disrupted his preparations have been.
In practice on Saturday, she gradually improved after a rough start and hit a few serves hard, but she also looked uncomfortable at the end.
The last time she played against Van Uytvanck was following her appearance in the fourth round of Wimbledon, although her reputation had nothing to do with what it became after New York.
“Everyone knows the kind of things I was doing last year, everyone wants to beat me,” Raducanu said. “I take it as a compliment if players elevate their game against me because they mean to do well.”
“It will definitely help me as a tennis player in the longer term, because if the players improve their game against me, I have to raise my level as well.”
The 19-year-old says she feels people are behind her since winning the US Open last September
The downside to this is massively high expectations. It might have been easier living in the parallel universe to have, say, just qualified in New York and then lost honorably in the first round.
“If I hadn’t won the US Open, I think the way I was going, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, in terms of results, you know?” said the British No.1.
“I’ve learned that I’m resilient. I always knew I had this, but I keep picking myself up.
“I said ‘fall down 10 times, get up 11 times’. I feel lucky to have learned that lesson at such a young age.