Twelve months ago, Emma Raducanu captured her country's imagination with a fourth-round run at Wimbledon as a wildcard ranked outside the Top 300. Back as a Top 10 seed on Monday, she was a winner again over one of the most dangerous unseeded players in the draw, Belgium's Alison van Uytvanck.
Van Uytvanck arrived at the All-England Club tied for the best record on grass at all levels this summer with Beatriz Haddad Maia; she went 12-2 in four events prior to Wimbledon, winning the titles at the ITF W100 in Surbiton and the WTA 125 in Gaiba, Italy. She also came into the match knowing what it takes to upset a big name at the All-England Club; she knocked out then-defending champion Garbiñe Muguruza in a run to the fourth round in 2018. Raducanu, by contrast, had spent little more than 30 minutes of competitive match play on the surface, as she was forced to retire from her opening round match in Nottingham with a rib injury.
Match management: Proclaiming herself “fit, ready to go” in her pre-tournament press conference, Raducanu certainly looked it in her Centre Court debut over 1 hour and 41 minutes. She didn't have it all her own way against the World No.46, though: Raducanu trailed 3-1 in the second set before finishing off a 6-4, 6-4 win.
The British teenager is now 5-0 in her young career in the first round of Grand Slams. It was her first straight-sets win at a major since her US Open championship triumph in September, and perhaps more importantly, her body cooperated.
"I didn't play tennis for two weeks, then this week I've hit like an hour a day. My preparation wasn't necessarily the greatest," she said. "But I know that when it comes to the matches, I feel like I really especially switch on. I don't feel like I need massive amount of preparation. Of course, I do to build physically.
"I think a lot of it is mental, and I definitely went out with the belief today. I know that I can compete with anyone on the other side of the court when I really go for it.
"I felt good out there. There were some tough moments in the second set physically, but I told myself, 'Push through, if you win in two sets, then you don't have to play three.'"
Tested early, Kontaveit comes through Pera
Last month, Anett Kontaveit lost in the first round of Roland Garros in her first Grand Slam match as a Top 5 seed. Seeded No.2 at Wimbledon, a career-best, the Estonian didn't suffer the same fate: Tested early by American Bernarda Pera, Kontaveit eventually won the nine of the last 10 games in a 7-5, 6-1 opening win. Kontaveit started the match strongly and led 4-1 in the opener, before Pera won four straight games and was two points away from pocketing the first set.
First win since April: Kontaveit hadn't won a match since the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in April, and she was playing her first match since falling at the first hurdle in Paris. In the interim, she split with her previous coach, Dmitry Tursunov, after less than a year of working together.
She arrives at Wimbledon looking to start the second half of her 2022 season on a high note, having struggled since overcoming a bout of COVID-19. She's won back-to-back matches just once since reaching the final of the Qatar Total Open in February.
"It's been pretty exciting, being seeded second ... I'm really excited to be playing again and really happy that I can compete here," Kontaveit said. "A month ago, I was really having a hard time. I really wouldn't have come here if I wasn't feeling like I could play a match, compete at the highest level. I've been feeling better. I mean, there's some times I felt dips in my energy from time to time. But I've been managing it, trying to prepare the best that I can [and] take the most out of the situation I'm in."
Kontaveit has nonetheless thrived on grass before, though; she reached the third round of Wimbledon in three consecutive years from 2017-19, won the title in 's-Hertogenbosch in 2017, and was the runner-up in Eastbourne last year. She'll next face German Jule Niemeier, who won her first Grand Slam match against Wang Xiyu, 6-1, 6-4.
Garcia holds off inspired Miyazaki to stretch streak; Collins first Top 10 seed to fall
Just about 48 hours after winning her eighth career Hologic WTA Tour singles title in Bad Homburg, Germany, Caroline Garcia was back on court and given all she could handle by 26-year-old British wildcard Yuriko Miyazaki despite nearly 150 places in the rankings between the two.
Until the end: A third-set tiebreak played to 10 points, new at Wimbledon this year, was needed separate them; in the end, Garcia rallied from a set down and secured a 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 win in 2 hours, 17 minutes. She'll be Raducanu's Round 2 opponent. The pair played in the same round at the BNP Paribas Open in March, where Raducanu won in three sets.
"Obviously she's the big favorite here for the British fans, so I'm really looking forward to this match," Garcia said. "It was my first time playing against her a few months ago, and she's a very new player so you don't know much about her.
"She's doing her way and doing very well. I will have to play my game, try to be aggressive. It's a good match to play."
There was no such three-set win for No.7 seed and Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins, though. Playing her first match on grass this summer, Collins was beaten in three sets by an inspired Marie Bouzkova, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. The win is Bouzkova's second Top 10 win of the season and fifth of her career.