Three elite tennis players and now her kitbag too: Emma Raducanu has sent them all to the cleaners during her history-making first week at Wimbledon.
A shortage of clean kit was the 18-year-old’s only worry last night after she qualified for the last 16 with a performance to rival some of the greatest teenage British displays in the sport.
Immediately after her straight-sets triumph over world number 45 Sorana Cirstea, thoughts turned to the conservative expectations of her parents prior to the tournament. “My parents were like: ‘Aren’t you packing too many sets of match kit”, she recalled. Little did they know that their daughter was about to embark on a fairytale fortnight that even puts the teenage exploits of Sir Andy Murray in the shade. “I think I am going to have to do some laundry tonight,” Raducanu added.
The teenager, who sat her A-levels two months ago, has quickly become the story of the Championships, having only played one tour-level match before this tournament. However, her blistering performance on Saturday underlined that she belongs on the big stage as she swept aside Cirstea 6-3, 7-5.
Focusing on her studies this year at Newstead Wood in Orpington has been the priority for her parents, Ian and Renee. The mother and father – who both work in finance – hugged with delight on Court 1 on Saturday, but later turned down media approaches, with sources saying they remained keen to retain “some semblance” of a low profile.
However, Alan Blount, head of Newstead, where Olympic sprint hope Dina Asher-Smith also attended, said all of Raducanu’s friends and family were “over the moon”. “It was nailbiting,” he said last night.
As the victory settled in, Raducanu said that her progress over the past week had been “so crazy”. Wimbledon stewards had offered to clean her kit as soon as she got back to the changing rooms. “They were happy to help me out with some laundry. I’ll get that sorted today and Monday I’ll have a fresh kit ready to go,” she added.
Friends and coaches have described how there has never been the same pressure around her career in tennis that has blighted many other young teenage prodigies. She also tried out ballet, horse riding, swimming, tap dancing, basketball and even motocross.
Those close to her say that she puts most pressure on herself. “She is a consummate professional in her academic work and in her sporting dedication,” Mr Blount added. “She is amazing. Her attitude is spot on.”
Born in Toronto, Canada, Raducanu took up tennis aged five, and her potential was spotted early by the LTA, who have supported her on the Pro Scholarship Programme. With her parents keeping a closer eye on her exams after she completed her A-levels in maths and economics, she had not played a professional tournament since March 2020.
Her world ranking of 338 is set to soar after she became the youngest British woman in the fourth round of SW19 in the open era. A Centre Court date with Ajla Tomljanovic on Monday awaits.
Crowds at the All England Club were up to 60 per cent across the grounds on Saturday, and will increase to 100 per cent for the show courts by finals weekend.
There were 7,400 on Court 1 to see a performance that will be compared with Murray’s 2005 performance against David Nalbandian, when he was still only 18. However, Murray was unable to close out that third-round win because of cramps. Raducanu, in contrast, sailed into the fourth round with a dominant display. The last time a British player of this age reached the last 16 of Wimbledon was Christine Truman in 1959. “It’s coming home!” shouted one voice from the crowd.
Her former classmates and younger pupils have “absolutely loved it”, Mr Blount added. “We’ve had the screens on at the school – they have been watching her matches on playback,” he added. “It is a huge motivation for them to see it can be done and that someone sitting in the hall and classroom alongside them is achieving this means that they can do it too.”