sport news Wimbledon: Emma Raducanu must feed off Centre Court crowd in her tough opener trends now
Like Emma Raducanu I won my first Grand Slam as a teenager so I know how she feels, although our back-stories are certainly very different.
When I won the US Open aged 16, I was already in the world top three or four and had beaten the two leading players in Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.
As a player, you climb up levels of success — first settle at the lower tournaments, then do well at WTA events, win a title there, then feel comfortable at the Grand Slams and so on.
Like Emma Raducanu (right) Tracy Austin won her first Grand Slam as a teenager in 1979
You make jumps and Emma skipped about 10 levels in three weeks, from qualifying at a US Open to winning the whole thing, a major!
She didn’t have the chance to make adjustments and settle at each level. With me it was a process over months to say, ‘OK I’m still the underdog’ to ‘OK, I’m a favourite’.
She started at Wimbledon last year, outside the top 300, getting to the fourth round and then having to retire after a set against Alja Tomljanovic.
But none of that could prepare her for the US Open.
Then there was the huge tidal wave of media, endorsements and expectation that followed.
It’s a lot to take on for someone so young. Life changed very quickly for her.
A lot has changed for Raducanu since she won the US Open in stunning fashion last September
When I was coming up, I would always be very strict on limiting the number of days I would give to commercial endorsements so I could focus on training.
Winning a major is very rare in tennis so what she’s had after, with all those engagements and big fanfare, are all benefits of her achievement.
Emma will have the whole of Centre Court cheering for her on Monday. As a player you hear it, there’s no way not to, so hopefully she can use the noise in a positive way.
One of Emma’s best assets is her focus — she’s all-business, concentrated and doesn’t seem to get distracted.
She’s had some time to adjust to being the US Open champion but so many of her matches she’s now expected to win.
All eyes will be on the 19-year-old and she must feed off the crowd on her Centre Court debut
Opponent Alison Van Uytvanck is ranked world No 46 and has won Surbiton and a tournament in Italy. She’s had a lot of play this grass-court season.
This is one of the tougher first round opponents possible. If I ponder which players are in form on grass, Van Utyvanck is certainly one of them. Your best preparation for Wimbledon is to go deep in two or three grass tournaments but it was not to be for Emma, with her abdominal injury at Nottingham a couple of weeks ago.
That happens as an athlete and now she must go out there with a positive attitude. She was on an uptick in form during the clay-court season but it’s going to be a lot to take in as she has so little experience, yet high expectations.
Alison Van Uytvanck is ranked world No 46 and she is one of the tougher first round opponents
But she’s 19 years-old and