As Emma Raducanu returns to the second round of Wimbledon a year on from her first big breakthrough, she is now, officially, in her second year around the sun as a tennis player. She is navigating the same locker rooms for a second time, facing many of the same opponents and, with her centre court debut complete, returning to the same courts.
She may still be extremely inexperienced, but her familiarity with the sport is growing, something she admits comes with positive and negative consequences. “I think that it helps just with experience. Every tournament or every match you play, you learn something. It helps it all be a positive tool for the future,” said Raducanu.
“I think in a way, when you haven’t played anyone before, it helps, too, because no one knows you, no one knows your game. That is something that I experienced in a positive way last summer because no one really knew who I was. Since, I think that people have definitely watched me and raised their level and raised their game and played some great tennis.”
The next opponent for Raducanu, Caroline Garcia, is one such example. When they face each other as the second match on Centre Court on Wednesday, there will be no surprises. The pair played in the second round of Indian Wells this year, with Raducanu edging out a win 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.
After her own 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) first-round win over Yuriko Miyazaki, Garcia hailed Raducanu as a “phenomenon” within the sport. “It has all happened in 12 months. From a player who was 350th to a worldwide phenomenon in every way,” she said. “Especially with the sponsors and everyone. Good luck to her. Her personality, her play is very attractive to everyone. I have just got to concentrate on the tennis. And how I can find a way and a solution to beat her.”
When she was a teenager herself, Garcia was infamously tipped to become a world No 1 by Andy Murray. Although she fell short of those lofty predictions, she eventually reached a career high ranking of No 4 in 2018. The 28-year-old’s talent is clear, with a good serve, a heavy top-spin forehand and her great athleticism.
She is also in good form. Last week Garcia won her eighth career title in Bad Homburg on grass with an impressive win over Bianca Andreescu in the final.
For all her physical attributes, she has often been held back by her mental frailty. On faster surfaces, her big groundstroke swings can be rushed, which Raducanu will aim to do by stepping inside the baseline and taking the ball early.
Both before and after her first-round win over Alison van Uytvanck, Raducanu wore Nike T-shirts displaying Rafael Nadal’s logo. During her time around the grounds, she says that she has taken inspiration from seeing Nadal and Novak Djokovic in full flow.
“I love to watch tennis, I love to watch all the matches, I love watching people practising,” she said. “I was watching Novak warm up and it’s actually quite fascinating to see the differences between him and Rafa. With Rafa you can feel his presence but Novak is extremely easy and fluid and the way he gets his power is very different.”
After Novak Djokovic opens the day on Centre Court against Thanasi Kokkinakis, Raducanu will be followed by Andy Murray who faces the challenge of John Isner, the 20th seed. Murray holds an 8-0 record against Isner and he has one of the best records of all players against the tall, formidable server. As he looks to continue working his way back to the top of the game, maintaining that perfect record would be another positive step.