A little over a year ago, 18-year-old Emma Raducanu played her first Hologic WTA-level match in Nottingham, losing in straight sets to fellow British player Harriet Dart. Three weeks later, she managed to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon, captivating her nation in the process.

Raducanu won three qualifying matches at the US Open and then, inexplicably, seven more in the main draw. She was a 20/20 vision in New York, winning every set she played, defeating another teenager, Leylah Fernandez, in the final and becoming the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open Era.

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Since that glorious and improbable breakthrough, though, Raducanu has lost three more matches than she’s won and, after a series of awkward retirements, has suffered some serious mayhem at the hands of both social and conventional media. For those who feel Raducanu, now 19, has fallen short of those great expectations inspired by her US Open victory, Alison Van Uytvanck has some advice.

“Give her some time, give her some space,” she told the BBC in a pre-tournament interview. “The things she already did, I’m dreaming about.”

In her first appearance on Wimbledon’s hallowed Centre Court, the No.10-seeded Raducanu defeated Van Uytvanck 6-4, 6-4 in the first round. On Wednesday, she’ll play the dangerous Caroline Garcia in a second-round match.

“I’m 19 years old,” Raducanu told reporters before the tournament. “If I hadn’t won the US Open, I think the past year or the way that I’ve been sort of heading, it wouldn’t be necessarily a bad thing, or result-wise, you know?

“I think that I as a tennis player have actually grown and developed and have skills that I maybe didn’t have last year. But everyone knows me now. Everyone knows the sort of things I was doing last year. Everyone wants to beat me.”

Raducanu went 2-3 in her 2021 matches after the US Open. A blister on her finger contributed to a second-round loss to Danka Kovinic at the Australian Open. Her next match, in Guadalajara against Daria Saville, ended when she retired due to a hip injury. In Rome, it was a back injury that gave Bianca Andreescu a retirement victory. In Nottingham, Viktorija Golubic was the beneficiary when a rib injury took out Raducanu after only seven games.

“I’d say I’ve learnt that I’m resilient,” Raducanu said. “I always knew that I had that, but just to keep getting back up. I said, `Fall down 10 times, get up 11. What are you going to do about it?’ All you can do is keep moving forward. There’s no point looking back, getting down, because you just keep getting back up.”

Garcia, a 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) winner over Yuriko Miyazaki, will be a formidable adversary. It was her sixth straight win on grass, following last week's title in Bad Homburg. It was her first in three years, going back to a similar run on the grass in Nottingham. The 28-year-old from France has a career record of 34-21 on grass, percentage-wise (.618) her best surface. She is now 3-0 in grass-court finals.

“Of course when you play aggressive game style and you want to move forward, grass is always a good option,” Garcia said.

They’ve met only once, back in March, with Raducanu winning a squirrely match, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 in Indian Wells. But that was on a hard court.

“I will have to play my game, try to be aggressive,” Garcia said. “I think she played well last year here, so she likes the grass court from Wimbledon.”

Champion's Reel: How Caroline Garcia won Bad Homburg 2022

2022 Bad Homburg

Raducanu’s learning curve extends to proper etiquette; she wasn’t exactly sure how the Centre Court walk-on went. Now she knows the two opponents come out together. She said she’s heard encouragement from some of the Wimbledon employees around the grounds and is stoked she’s now high enough in the food chain to practice on the on-site courts at Aorangi Park, rather than dodging traffic to practice “on like Court 28 or something.”

After defeating Van Uytvanck, Raducanu was asked – predictably – if this was the tournament that could turn around her season.

“I feel like I’ve learnt a lot in the last year,” she said. “But it hasn’t necessarily all been terrible. I won my first round at every Slam. As a 19-year-old, I pretty much just took my gap year and, [I’m] starting again now.

“If the last year hadn't have happened, then I think that any 19-year-old walking onto Centre Court would be a positive experience for you. And it was.”

No.3 Ons Jabeur vs. [Q] Katarzyna Kawa

Wimbledon has always held a special place in Jabeur’s heart. She loves the all-white dress code.

“For me it feels like a wedding, everybody in white, or a beach party,” she said. “I love the crowd here, how respectful they are. No matter if you’re ranked, I don’t know, 200 or No.1 in the world, always people are very passionate about tennis.”

And one year ago, Jabeur gave those Wimbledon spectators some of her most passionate tennis. She defeated five-time champion Venus Williams in the second round, 2017 winner Garbiñe Muguruza in the third and Iga Swiatek in the fourth before losing to Aryna Sabalenka in the quarterfinals.

Photo by Jimmie48/WTA

Her eclectic game seems built for grass, as evidenced by her recent victory in Berlin, along with Eastbourne, the most prestigious of grass prequels. Jabeur beat French Open finalist Coco Gauff in the semifinals and Tokyo gold medalist Belinda Bencic in the final via retirement.

Jabeur, the No.2-ranked player in the world, is the second choice after Swiatek at the All England Club, ahead of Gauff. She was a 6-1, 6-3 winner over Mirjam Bjorklund. Meanwhile, Kawa – one of three qualifiers into the second round from the bottom half of the draw – defeated Rebecca Marino 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.

Jabeur holds a 2-0 head-to-head advantage, winning most recently at the 2020 US Open in straight sets.

Other notable matches:

  • No.2 Anett Kontaveit vs. Jule Niemeier
  • No.15 Angelique Kerber vs. Magda Linette
  • Marie Bouzkova vs. Ann Li