When Emma Raducanu is in competition with Wimbledon this week she will return to the location of not only one of her most cherished moments last year when she made her Grand Slam debut, but also one of her most heartbreaking.
Before Raducanu became a household name last year, the teenager was ranked 338th in the world when she received a wildcard and she reached the last 16 against all odds, although Britain’s hopes faded as her compatriots made early exits.
She handled the pressure surprisingly well, but her fairytale Wimbledon debut ended in painful circumstances when she was forced to retire in the fourth round after suffering breathing difficulties.
As debates raged over whether the youngster was up to the task of handling the pressure on the big stage, they were quickly put to rest two months later after she became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam when she lifted the US Open.
After playing a year on the tour, the battle-hardened Raducanu is ranked 11th in the world, but she’s also been humbled in some ways by recent results and injuries.
But the 19-year-old is no longer a stranger to pressure as she welcomed the prospect of launching women’s action in central courtyard against Alison Van Uytvanck.
“It’s always been my dream to step out on center court. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and started playing tennis for,” said Raducanu who has never hit on the court. center court.
“This year I feel such a special feeling walking around the pitch, I really feel that people are behind me. Even from some people working on the tournament they say, ‘You got it’, just to cheering me on is pretty special.
“One of the advantages is that I don’t have to cross the road at Aorangi to practice now on court 28 or something like that.”
Another British prospect viewed with cautious optimism is former champion Andy Murray who fought defiantly after career-threatening hip surgery to climb to 51st in the standings.
A run to the final in Stuttgart made the unseeded Scot a dark horse in the draw, but it remains to be seen if his body can go the distance in five-set matches as the 35-year-old faces James Duckworth in the first round. .
Top seed Novak Djokovic, who lost his number one ranking for the second time this year, will start his campaign against Kwon Soon-woo without having played a single competitive match on grass after his quarter-final at Roland Garros.
Ons Jabeur won the tune-up tournament in Berlin and moved up to second in the standings, but a knee injury which forced her to withdraw from Eastbourne put a question mark over her credentials.
“My knee, I’ve always had issues with that… But overall it’s fine. Hopefully I’ll be 100 per cent on Monday,” she said ahead of her first-round match. against Mirjam Bjorklund.