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Emma Raducanu put her troubled build-up behind her as she marked her Centre Court debut by defeating Alison Van Uytvanck to reach the second round of Wimbledon.
The 10th seed’s participation in the tournament was in doubt until the weekend because of a side strain suffered at the WTA Tour event in Nottingham three weeks ago.
Coupled with the huge attention on the US Open champion’s homecoming and a tricky opponent, this was a major test, but Raducanu passed it impressively by claiming a 6-4 6-4 victory.
First Centre Court appearance. First Centre Court win.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) June 27, 2022
Centre Court was only half full when Raducanu took her first steps on it as spectators took a break following Novak Djokovic’s victory, but she received an enthusiastic welcome from those left.
While the 19-year-old had given an upbeat assessment of her fitness and mindset at her press conference on Saturday, the stresses of a match, particularly such a high-profile one, are inevitably different to practice.
But there were no early causes for alarm as Raducanu threw herself into serves and groundstrokes, missing two break points in the opening game but then saving three on her own serve as the first two games lasted a gruelling 17 minutes.
Van Uytvanck was certainly not the kindest draw Raducanu could have been given, with the 46th-ranked Belgian having won a grass-court title last weekend – albeit at second-tier level – in Italy, while she upset defending champion Garbine Muguruza on her way to the fourth round in 2018.
Raducanu had managed just seven games before retiring in Nottingham so negotiating this hurdle in any fashion was all that could be asked of her.
A couple of fizzing backhands, coupled with a poor volley and double fault from Van Uytvanck, gave Raducanu the first break in the seventh game.
She promptly dropped serve to love but then broke again and dug in at just the right moment to save two more break points and take the first set.
There were glimpses of the player who swept all before her in New York but Raducanu has discovered, like countless others before her, that being the hunted is a very different proposition to being the hunter.
— LTA (@the_LTA) June 27, 2022
She missed six break points in the opening game of the second set and it looked like that might cost her when Van Uytvanck played two of the best points of the match to break for 3-1.
Back came Raducanu, though, breaking back to love, and another ill-timed double fault from Van Uytvanck on break point at 4-4 gave the teenager the chance to serve for the match.
Raducanu proved herself to be an excellent front-runner at Flushing Meadows and a volley placed deftly into the open court on her second match point prompted a leap of delight from the British number one.