As one British star flickers and dims, another glows brighter by the day. What are the limits for Emma Raducanu? How far might she go? It would be a bold and dreary soul who holds back in assessment of those wonderful possibilities right now.
What an astonishing talent, and what a delightful tale. That she has killed the wait for her A-level results by reaching the fourth round of these Championships is impressive; that she has done so with such swagger and quality and fearlessness is quite something else.
To think, the tournament hadn’t even planned on giving this 18-year-old a wildcard into their main draw before a hasty change of heart a fortnight ago. By Saturday afternoon, the woman ranked 338th in the world had put Roger Federer deep into the shadows. Wild times, indeed.
At this juncture, take a look at what she was up against on Saturday. She’s no slouch, Sorana Cirstea. She’s 31 now and nudging past her best, but she’s 45th on the ladder, has been as high as 21, and less than three months ago she won the WTA event in Istanbul. On Thursday, she beat Victoria Azarenkia, the 14th seed. She can play.
But what a force of nature she encountered on Court No 1. After breaking to go 3-1 up, Cirstea was looking solid, and a blink later she was 6-3, 3-0, 0-40 down, chuntering at clouds and picking at her hat. Good on the Romanian for pulling it back to 5-5, but after 99 minutes she was ready for bed and the teenager from Bromley was searching for a washing machine.
Emma Raducanu’s fairytale Wimbledon journey continues after she beat Sorana Cirstea
The 18-year-old wildcard entry beat the Romanian on Court One, winning it in straight sets
Raducanu collapses to the ground after her victory over Cirstea was confirmed
‘When I was packing to come into the bubble my parents were like, “Aren’t you packing too many pairs of match kit?” she told the crowd. ‘I think I will have to do some laundry tonight. I think they have a service at the hotel so I’ll go down.’
They love talk like that in these parts. And the crowds seem particularly taken with her, this woman with no glaring weakness. The relentlessness of her backhand winners, the reliability of her serve, the survival of that second set wobble, the shrewdness of her tactics, the comfort amid the novelty of being on a show court – it’s dangerous to talk about a complete package, and tennis’s scrapheap has known a few of those, but Raducanu clearly has something about her.
‘I’m so grateful for this wild card,’ she said. ‘Honestly, I just wanted to make the most out of it, try to show that I earned it. The way that I’m approaching my matches is each time I’m thinking to myself, “Why not?” Like today, I was like, “Someone has to be in the second week, why not me?”‘
She laughed with that, and all the way to the bank, if this daughter of finance executives cares to think in those terms. Her career earnings ahead of this tournament were £68,618; her prize for this run is £181,000 and counting. Crass to look at it in such a manner, of course, but it is just one measure of where she was and where she is.
Cirstea fought back in the second set but was overpowered by the British teenager
The Romanian (left) crossed to Raducanu’s side of the court to congratulate her on her win
It is worth remembering she had never played a Slam before this one, and prior to Wimbledon had never won so much as a single match at tour level. As of this win, which sets her up for a last-16 tie with Australia’s world No 75 Ajla Tomljanovic, she has gone past Andy Murray’s third-round performance here from his own rookie year. His latest battle against the fading light of his magnificent career ended on Friday; Raducanu is rising into consciousness with perfect timing.
‘Right now I’m on such a buzz and such a high,’ she said. ‘I’ve turned all my notifications off on my phone. I just know whenever my phone buzzes, it’s like Apple News telling me what’s going on. I have actually received a few emails from my school teachers. My math teacher emailed me today congratulating me.
‘I’m just trying to stay here as long as possible. As I said, I’m just having such a blast.’
The teenager, who has just £29,000 in career earnings before this week, is guaranteed at least £181,000 after reaching the fourth round
Blast is a good word for describing her approach. She was pummelling winners from the start against Cirstea, forcing a break point in the very first game before slipping 3-1 down in the early shootout. What followed was some truly sublime tennis as she reeled off 10 winners and only three unforced errors in taking the set 6-3. She clinched it with a lob of pure precision.
That was part of an eight-game charge that took her to 3-0 in the second, whereupon she briefly wobbled. Two excellent backhand winners had helped her to 0-40 on the Cirstea serve – she sussed out quickly in the match that Cirstea was vulnerable to that angled corner-to-corner shot and got great value for it – but the Romanian survived and then broke to pull it back to 3-3. That might have instilled a crisis in other young players, but Raducanu didn’t buckle.
The match reached 6-5 when she made her decisive move. A backhand winner for 15-15 had her staring in amazement at her own shot, and soon she held match point. It took three attempts to convert, and with it the temporary Murray void was filled in the most excellent way.