Emma Raducanu has rocketed to superstardom in the last 12 months, having arrived at the All England Club ranked world No.338 and without a single win on the WTA Tour
But the teenager, who has been re-watching highlights of her run to the fourth round here, claimed she feels under no personal pressure of expectation at her home Grand Slam. “I’m just like rocking up here this week basically,” she smiled.
The A level student arrived at the All England Club last year ranked world No.338 and without a single win on the WTA Tour. She is back this year as the US Open champion and British No.1 with her image on posters all over London – including outside Wimbledon station – for her latest blue-chip sponsor HSBC; ‘Strawberries and dreams’ is one caption.
“I haven’t seen that but I think it is pretty surreal to have my face there,” said Raducanu. “It’s a bit unrecognisable, like, ‘That can’t be me!’.”
The No.10 seed now has more big commercial deals – nine – than her seven wins this season. Her number of endorsements, along with her number of injuries and her coaching set-up, has been a recurring theme since her fairytale in New York.
But Raducanu, 19, and her agency IMG claim critics, such as England rugby coach Eddie Jones, are not seeing the bigger picture of backing from Evian, Porsche, Tiffany, British Airways and Dior et al.
“I’m obviously very lucky to be working with some amazing partners,” she said. “And although I am a tennis player, there’s so much more to life, and I think that I learn and can apply those areas of business and how they approach their work with utmost standards to my tennis as well. It’s broadening all sorts of knowledge.”
The build-up to this year’s event has been a quest for knowledge about her niggling side strain – she finally declared “it’s full steam ahead” this weekend – before an appearance in the main press room along with countless TV interviews.
“I don’t think I did any real media days last year,” said Raducanu ahead of Monday afternoon’s Centre Court match against Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck.
“I was just training. I was definitely experiencing some nerves and uneasiness. It’s funny because the exams I was studying nine or 10 hours a day, I had my head in a book. And coming out is just such a relief to be moving full stop.
“The last month I haven’t necessarily had the best preparation, I didn’t play tennis for two and a half weeks. In that regard I feel like I shouldn’t have any expectations on myself.
“Other opponents have been playing a few matches each week. I’m just like rocking up here this week basically. But I’m feeling good and I’m looking forward to playing on Centre Court.”
Her fitness remains a doubt after playing only 34 minutes on grass this season after pulling out of the Nottingham Open with a side strain. But her young career also has to be kept in context.
Andy Murray made his Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon in 2005 as an 18-year-old – and won his first Major over seven years later. Raducanu is not 20 until November.
Taking to the most famous stage in tennis on Centre Court is the latest chapter in her story over the last year.
“Sometimes I go through my photos and camera roll and go through all the experiences and emotions I was feeling at the time, and relive that,” she said.
“When I rewatched my third round match from here, I remember I was hitting some incredible shots that just came out of nowhere. But I was just thinking at the time that I had no idea how I had ever pulled that off. And I was literally just experiencing the feelings and I can relive every single moment of that.
“That just gives you a lot of joy obviously, the feelings you had, everybody watching you and getting really fired up.”