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LONDON, June 24 (Reuters) – Was it only 12 months ago that Emma Raducano presented herself to Wimbledon as a radiant, joyful 18-year-old, happy to even be invited to the tournament amid a one-match, one-loss WTA career.

Radukanu’s surprise fourth-round run made front-page news, but then the teenager retired midway through the match due to “breathing difficulties” in what appeared to be an anti-climax.

Many expected her to disappear as quickly as she appeared – just the latest in a painfully long line of British women who couldn’t even challenge the Venus Rosewater plate last lifted by Virginia Wade in 1977, let alone to win her.

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Two months later, however, Radukanu broke into the minds of the world far beyond tennis, with an astounding US Open win, finishing 150th in the qualifiers without dropping a set. another sport.

Her fearless free play and sheer lack of nerves has won legions of sports fans, while her fresh smile, charm, laid-back, unassuming speech and Anglo-Canadian/Chinese/Romanian ancestry have instantly created a lineup of high profile sponsors eager to join her. with an interesting young man.

Unsurprisingly, Radukan didn’t manage to seal this victory with great success, but few expected that next year she would fight so hard to find stability.

Against the background of a series of injuries and a regular change of coach, she failed to win more than two matches in a row in any tournament.

Radukan said she had a hard time adjusting to the physical demands of the intensity of the WTA Tour and feels the time lost during COVID has hampered her physical development. However, as always, she looked for the positives as Wimbledon approached.

CRAZY YEAR

“It’s been a crazy year, that’s for sure,” she said. “I’m definitely proud of the year I’ve had and I’ve learned a lot.

“Of course I wouldn’t change that trajectory, but it means I have to be patient with my body. Obviously there were challenges, but I think I learned how to deal with setbacks well and also how to manage my time. a little better,” said the Briton, who lost in the second round of this year’s Australian Open to France.

She suffered blisters on her racquet arm and legs, a hip injury and back pain and withdrew from a first-round match at the Nottingham Grass Tournament this month with a strain in her side. It also eliminated her from the Birmingham and Eastbourne warm-up tournaments, giving her a total of seven games in 35 minutes of grass play this year.

Consequently, Raducanou will arrive at Wimbledon as a ridiculously unprepared number 10 seed – with packed crowds on Center Court and national sit-down fans exuding a level of anticipation already at the level of Andy Murray.

However, potentially more problematic for Radukan’s prospects to compete again in the second week is that she is no longer the new girl on the Tour.

“She set the bar pretty high. She has already won the US Open, so everyone is chasing her,” said former UK No. 1 John Lloyd. “Other players found out about her, coaches taught them how to play against her.

“It can be tough, but from what I’ve seen and what people have told me about her, I don’t think she’s going to be a one-hit wonder.”

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Reporting by Mitch Phillips, additional reporting by Sudipto Ganguly, editing by Ken Ferris

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