Emma Raducanu produced a statement performance on her debut on a show court at Wimbledon, beating Sorana Cirstea 6-3 7-5 to book her spot in the last-16.
Raducanu, the world No. 338 who boasts explosive power off both wings, was handed a wildcard into the main draw at the All England Club but has far exceeded expectations on her young shoulders.
While well known within tennis circles, Raducanu – the British No. 10 – was a complete unknown to the wider British sporting public before this week, but is now on the brink of becoming a household name.
With Britain’s greatest tennis player Andy Murray dumped out of Wimbledon on Friday night and facing questions over his future, the sport received a major shot in the arm on Saturday as Raducanu put in a display to suggest she is ready to lead British tennis into a bright, new generation.
Raducanu’s fearless, clean ball striking had the Court 1 crowd off its feet as she dominated a player ranked 293 places above her in the WTA rankings. The quality of her return of serve was particularly impressive.
Her ranking will to jump to around world No. 175 regardless of the result of her fourth round – where she will face Austrlalia’s world No. 75 Ajla Tomljanovic on Monday – but she will no doubt feel confident that her journey isn’t over yet.
Romania’s Cirstea may only be ranked 45 in the world but she had taken out former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the second round and had knocked out British No. 1 Johanna Konta out of two majors in the past 12 months. On this season’s form alone, she is the 26th best player in women’s tennis.
Raducanu, who is currently awaiting her A-level results, was hyped up by her coach, and Murray’s father-in-law, Nigel Sears on the eve of her battle with Cirstea.
Sears said she ‘compared very, very, favourably’ to his former top-five charges Ana Ivanovic and Daniela Hantuchova and insisted the ‘sky is the limit’. On this evidence, he is right. She is already outperforming her peers, Konta is the only other active British female to reach the fourth round of a major in singles.
Any question that Raducanu – born in Toronto to a Romanian father and Chinese mother – would be overawed by the occasion vanished quickly in the opening games.
She was quickly on the front foot, pressing the Cirstea serve but couldn’t convert a break point.
A hold to love settled any nerves and Raducanu was dictating the points.
There was a momentary dip in the fourth game of the opener, allowing her opponent to break, but Raducanu hit straight back, with Cirstea distracted by a few of drops of rain in the sky.
From there, it was all one way traffic. Raducanu hit 10 winners and just three unforced errors in the first set, reeling off five games from a break down to cruise into a 6-3 lead.
Not only was she playing great tennis, Raducanu was relishing the occasion.
She swaggered around the court, struggling to hold back a grin and fist pumped into the crowd after every point won.
Her momentum carried her into a 3-0 lead in the second set but she failed to convert the double break, missing three break points, as her eight-game win streak was halted.
Cirstea, sensing her opportunity, broke in the next game, as the Court 1 atmosphere suddenly became a little nervy.
In a marathon eighth game of the second set, the Romanian fended off five more break points to hold as she desperately clung on.
After a backhand cross-court passing shot winner on the stretch in the 11th game, Raducanu dropped her racquet in disbelief. Cirstea then saved two match points but not a third, leaving British fans in ecstasy as she advanced to round four after an hour and 41 minutes.
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