Emma Raducanu races into Wimbledon third round with throwback victory

Emma Raducanu is through to the third round at Wimbledon  (Getty Images)
Emma Raducanu is through to the third round at Wimbledon (Getty Images)

Winning ugly? Not here, not as Emma Raducanu beamed to the Court No 1 crowd and skipped to the net after this ruthless destruction of Elise Mertens. It would be wrong to declare this a vintage victory, given Raducanu still has relatively little grand slam experience behind her, but a fabulous 6-1 6-2 victory in just 75 minutes against the world No 33 felt a little reminiscent of a couple of famous weeks as an 18-year-old in New York three years ago.

Raducanu was happy to emerge with a scrappy opening win on Monday but this was a performance to be proud of in front of the Wimbledon crowd. When asked to describe how she played, a fan interrupted before she had the chance to reply. If “ugly” was the assessment of her first-round win, a cry of “beautiful!” from the stands was met with approval by the rest of the crowd. Certainly, Raducanu has rarely produced such a comprehensive and commanding attacking display since her big breakthrough in winning the US Open.

Against the unsuspecting Mertens, Raducanu returned to that gameplan. If the Briton routinely stunned her opponents by racing to a series of rapid, straight-sets wins in her sensational grand slam triumph, always playing at full throttle, she brought flashes of her best to Wimbledon.

Raducanu is now into the third round of a grand slam for the first time since that US Open triumph and, while she has missed many of those opportunities due to injury, it was the performance here that was more pleasing than securing her best result at a major in three years. For Raducanu, it was a delight to be back on this stage playing her natural game. Fittingly, a reward for a throwback display is a rematch with Maria Sakkari, her defeated semi-finalist on the way to winning the US Open in 2021.

If Raducanu struggled for rhythm and consistency on her Wimbledon return on Monday, this was a display that served as a reminder of how effortless she can appear when her attacking game is flowing. Raducanu can seem to be playing downhill and after taking the early break never let up in her intent. The Briton finished with 22 winners and spoke afterwards of playing with “freedom” after taking inspiration from Carlos Alcaraz, who played the match before on Court No 1.

“I enjoyed it, I had a lot of fun,” Raducanu said. “I think that when my character shows through my tennis is when I play my best. I’m really pleased with that. Honestly, me following Carlos, it was pretty cool to watch him play because he has the same sort of demeanour and just enjoyment of the sport.”

Raducanu attacked Mertens throughout and sealed a dominant win (Reuters)
Raducanu attacked Mertens throughout and sealed a dominant win (Reuters)

After the awkward challenge posted by lucky loser Renata Zarazua on Centre Court on Monday, Raducanu was able to play her usual attacking approach against Mertens. The Belgian’s flat hitting gave Raducanu plenty of pace to work with in the baseline rallies and the 21-year-old made a confident start. The opening break was claimed at the third attempt as Mertens netted on a Raducanu drop shot and after Zarazua’s tight, defensive play in the first round, Mertens was certainly a more forgiving opponent to face, with plenty of free points on offer in the opening set.

Part of that, though, was down to Raducanu’s approach when in front. The Briton kept her foot down after securing the opening break and immediately pushed for another. Raducanu took the second break with a forehand pass that was met with the sort of roar only heard at the very end of her opening win on Centre Court. The first set was secured as Raducanu saved break point with a backhand winner at the net, before closing it out with an unreturnable serve out wide.

Raducanu continued her excellent start into the second set, with an angled pick-up after racing forward on the opening point. Even though Mertens could save four break points at the start of the second game, Raducanu consistently asked questions of her opponent. She responded to the missed opportunities by pulling apart Mertens in her next service game, with a snapped backhand winner to seal the break.

Once in front again, Raducanu was unrelenting. She consolidated the break to love with her finest array of winners of the match, with an excellent volley at the net followed by a big forehand winner onto the line. In the groove, Raducanu then showed touch to claim the double break with the drop shot, and a heavy forehand winner to move a game away from the match, where she served it out as confidently as she had started. Whisper it, but Wimbledon might be starting to believe as well.