Andy Murray and nearly all the rest of the locals lost in the first week of Wimbledon, except for one unlikely survivor. Emma Raducanu, an 18-year-old who entered the tournament as a wild card, was ranked No. 338 in the world, had not competed professionally between February 2020 and June 2021, and was playing only her second-ever tour-level event. Then she showed up and reached the fourth round, behind an eerily polished baseline game that on occasion flashed the kind of shot-making out of tough court positions seen only from the tour’s most talented. It took roughly three and a half matches of high-level tennis before that inexperience eventually caught up to her.
Despite never having played a top-100 opponent before this tournament, Raducanu took down the world No. 42 and No. 45 in straight sets in her second- and third-round matches, reading serves on grass so comfortably that she had won half of her return games headed into the fourth round.
To an optimistic observer, Raducanu’s run suggested not just a one-off irreproducible week of success, but genuine weapons—in particular, a lethal and consistent backhand—that could sustain a pro career. To a nation of homers halfway through hosting the most beloved tournament in the sport, she was a messiah. To Liam Gallagher, she was a “celestial talent.” And to Murray, whose father-in-law Nigel Sears is Raducanu’s coach, she was a great hitting partner and rooting interest. As the hype grew, Raducanu said she gave her phone to her osteopath, and was grateful to be living a quieter life within the constraints of players’ COVID-19 protocols. “In a way maybe it does help being in this own little world and bubble, that you don’t really go outside or see anyone,” she said after her third-round win.
On Monday, Raducanu was scheduled in a marquee slot for her fourth-round match against Ajla Tomljanovic, wrapping up the day’s action on No. 1 Court. As far as draws go, Tomljanovic, ranked No. 75 and only in her second appearance in the second week of a major, presented a decent opportunity for the Brit to advance. The players looked evenly matched in the first set, which concluded with a number of long, draining rallies. Raducanu appeared to be struggling with her breathing. Down 6-4, 3-0, and clutching at her stomach between points, she called for a medical consult. After an assessment, where medical staff attempted to calm her down and guide her breathing, she took a full medical timeout and left the court. A few minutes later, the chair umpire announced that Raducanu would not resume play.
In a BBC interview on Tuesday, Raducanu explained what she felt at the time: “I found it very difficult to regulate my breathing. I think that it was emphasized by some very long rallies that we had towards the end of the first set, which made it tough for me to keep my composure and the breathing in check. And then at the beginning of the second set was when I struggled with it the most, and called the trainer on, and made the decision at the end of the changeover.”
Raducanu’s run ends with a solid payoff: a 162-slot leap in the world rankings and a £182,000 check. While she didn’t draw a definitive conclusion, she did suggest that the public pressure might’ve factored into her breathing issues, even as she looked gamely ahead to future Wimbledons. “I don’t know what caused it, I think it was a combination of everything that has gone on behind the scenes and the accumulation of the excitement and the buzz,” she said. “Next time, going forward, I’ll be better prepared.”