Britain’s golden girl Emma Raducanu gave short shrift to any suggestion the weight of expectation on her young shoulders was a factor in her second-round loss to France’s Caroline Garcia at Wimbledon yesterday.
The 19-year-old US Open champion was handed the Centre Court stage for the second time in three days but was overpowered by the experienced Garcia, going down 6-3, 6-3.
“Yes, I have had attention. But I’m a Slam champion, so no one’s going to take that away from me. Yeah, if anything the pressure is on those who haven’t done that,” she said.
“There’s no pressure. Why is there any pressure? I’m still 19. Like, it’s a joke. I literally won a Slam.”
Raducanu, the 10th seed, was not at her best although former top-10 player Garcia was inspired throughout the contest and allowed her few opportunities on a blustery day.
In the end, Raducanu’s lack of preparation for the tournament, a consequence of a side injury that prevented her completing a match in the grasscourt swing, was exposed.
“I didn’t feel anything out there. I declared myself fully fit when I walked out onto the court on the first day. But I’ve played seven hours of tennis in a month,” she said.
“To even compete with these girls at this level and win a round I think is a pretty good achievement.”
Raducanu raised expectations when she won a tricky opening match against Belgian Alison van Uytvanck.
Against Garcia she looked very much the inexperienced youngster with much to learn, despite the fact she is already a Grand slam champion after her fairytale in New York last year when she came through qualifying and then took the title without even dropping a set.
Raducanu said defeats like the one she suffered yesterday were just part of the learning process.
“Of course it will make me a better player because they’re just highlighting all my weaknesses,” she said.
“Then when you do it on a big court like that, it’s definitely magnified. It’s just great for me to get all these lessons at such a young age so that when I’m in my mid-20s, I’ll have those issues or little glitches in my game sorted.
“I’ll just get better. I’ll just look at what’s not working, what my weaknesses are, improve them. It’s good for me.”
In the men’s draw, Novak Djokovic fired a warning to his Wimbledon title rivals by easing past Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis with a flawless display, and then vowing to get even better.
The defending champion had been unconvincing in his 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Korean Kwon Soon-woo in his first match on grass since last year’s final. But, ominously for the rest of the men’s draw, Djokovic looked more like the player who has not lost a match here since 2017 as he effortlessly saw off world number 79 Kokkinakis 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.
The 35-year-old is vying for a fourth straight title and to move level with Pete Sampras on seven, and within one of men’s record-holder Roger Federer, and on this form it is hard to see anyone stopping him.
After completing victory in exactly two hours, Djokovic said: “I’m happy with my performance today. A really high-quality performance.
“I must say I’m quite pleased with the way I’ve raised the level of tennis in two days.
“Hopefully I can keep that trajectory, just thinking about the next challenge and hope things will get better as the tournament goes on.”
Elsewhere, forgetful Frenchman Ugo Humbert left his rackets behind ahead of his match with Casper Ruud.
Despite a rain delay of more than an hour and a half, the 24-year-old world number 112 still managed to arrive on Court Two without the tools of his trade. But after sending someone to the locker room to fetch them, Humbert knocked out the third seed.
Norwegian Ruud, the French Open runner-up, is no fan of the grass courts and bowed out 3-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.
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