Raducanu would be ‘over the moon’ with Centre Court victory after missing Wimbledon last year

Even though she’s trying to take it easy, Raducanu found herself hitting balls Friday at the All England Club on what was supposed to be a day off.
Britain's Emma Raducanu on the practice court at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon.
Britain's Emma Raducanu on the practice court at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon.(Photo |AP)

WIMBLEDON, England: Emma Raducanu was doing meet-and-greets in the hospitality suites a year ago at Wimbledon, unable to play after ankle and wrist surgeries.

She prefers the view from Centre Court, where the hometown favorite will face No. 22 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova on Monday when the grass-court Grand Slam starts.

“Being on the other side just really (stung). It wasn’t nice and I didn’t really watch any of the tennis either,” the 21-year-old Raducanu said Saturday at a pretournament news conference. “For me to be on this side of it this year is just super special.”

Raducanu’s grass-court season has included the first victory of her career against a top-10 opponent — she saved a match point in beating No. 5 Jessica Pegula at the Eastbourne International — and she was awarded a wild-card entry to Wimbledon.

In 2021, Raducanu reached the fourth round as a wild card making her Grand Slam debut at the All England Club. She followed that up by going from qualifier to major champion when she won the US Open at age 18.

Since then, she’s dealt with injuries and made frequent coaching changes. But she said she’s learned to pace herself, opting to skip the French Open and the Paris Olympics.

After beating Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-0 in the first round at Eastbourne this week, she wrote “My own pace” on a courtside TV camera at Devonshire Park.

She’s even learned to set expectations, saying her 29-year-old Russian opponent on Monday is the big favorite.

“If I get through my first round, I’d be over the moon,” said Raducanu, who is ranked No. 168.

Alexandrova has “great weapons” that only get amplified on grass, she added.

“It’s a match where I’m actually the complete underdog because, yeah, she’s a lot older, a lot more experienced, ranked a lot higher,” Raducanu said. “For me, I feel like it’s just a great opportunity to try to get a good (victory), try to enjoy playing how I have been in the last few weeks, and just get back into it.”

As the 10th seed in 2022, Raducanu lost to Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-3 on Centre Court.

Even though she’s trying to take it easy, Raducanu found herself hitting balls Friday at the All England Club on what was supposed to be a day off.

“I kind of got bored, so I wanted to come here,” she said. “The weather was nice. I just wanted to hit some balls.”

She won’t be bored on Monday.

“I’m very happy to be back here. I’ve missed this tournament so much.”

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