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Emma Raducanu beats lucky loser in Wimbledon opener after dramatic late switch

Emma Raducanu of Great Britain celebrates after winning a point against Renata Zarazua of Mexico at Wimbledon 2024
Emma Raducanu will next face Belgian world No.33 Elise Mertens (Picture: Getty)

Emma Raducanu has won her opening match at Wimbledon 2024, beating lucky loser Renata Zarazua on Monday to book her spot in the second round.

There was a dramatic late switch for the second match on Centre Court on day one of the Championships after 22nd-seed Ekaterina Alexandrova withdrew.

Raducanu, who was given a wildcard for Wimbledon, was originally due for a tough opener against Russia’s Alexandrova but illness forced her out on Monday morning with the British star then drawn to face world No.98 Zarazua instead.

That was a huge boost for Raducanu as the 2021 US Open champion – ranked inside the world top 10 in 2022 – went on to conjure up a 7-6 (7-0) 6-3 first-round win and she will now next face Belgian world No.33 Elise Mertens in SW19.

Raducanu is currently ranked down at No.135 after a long period of inactivity in 2023 due to long-term injury problems – which forced her into triple surgery.

The 21-year-old headed into Wimbledon in fine form, though, reaching the Nottingham Open semi-finals and Eastbourne International quarter-finals in June, admitting on Saturday she’d had her best-ever preparation for a Grand Slam.

Raducanu took the lead in the first set – saving break point before her opponent collapsed in game five – lashing two backhand shots into the net to secure the Briton the first break of the match, which she followed up with a hold to lead 4-2.

Zarazua managed to level up the set at 4-4, though, as Raducanu was made to pay the price for a costly service game, handing her opponent the break when she mishit a crosscourt forehand into the tramlines.

That forced a tie-break – perhaps the most one-sided tie-break you’ll ever see – as Raducanu took it 7-0 to delight the British crowd, who let out a huge roar as their young superstar wrapped up the first set 7-6 (7-0) to edge towards victory.

Raducanu then took firm control in game six of the second set – securing the break when her opponent went long with a forehand – and that was all she needed to wrap things up 7-6 (7-0) 6-3 and raise the roof on Centre Court.

Emma Raducanu of Great Britain plays a forehand against Renata Zarazua of Mexico
Emma Raducanu dominated the first-set tie-break on Centre Court (Picture: Getty)

‘It was an incredibly difficult match,’ Raducanu said in her on-court interview after securing the win. ‘I’ve barely played a defender who’s landed the ball on the baseline and it took a lot of strength to get the ball back.

‘It’s not easy for her – you’re not playing in the morning and suddenly you’re on Centre Court. Thanks to everyone for getting me over the line.

‘I found out at 10:30 today [that my opponent had changed] and for the last three days we were playing with similar opponents. It took a little bit of adjusting to find my feet.

‘Thank you for the suport in crucial moments. I really enjoyed being back here. I’m incredibly happy to be back here.

‘I was nervous, I’m sure everyone could see that in my tennis. Honestly watching the football last night [England beating Slovakia at Euro 2024] it was winning ugly – it all counts!

‘I think it’s such a buzz in the summer time. I think the tennis, football, F1, it uplifts everyone, myself included and my motivation is to keep coming back here, keep playing and feel that buzz.’

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