Emma Raducanu roars into round two at Wimbledon

Emma Raducanu took advantage of her slice of good fortune to claim a Centre Court victory on her Wimbledon comeback.

Raducanu had been preparing to face 22nd seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, a big-hitting Russian who reached the fourth round here last year.

But Alexandrova withdrew through illness on Monday morning, and instead Raducanu’s opponent was Mexican lucky loser Renata Zarazua, who had never won a tour-level match on grass and was making her main draw debut here.

Zarazua, ranked 98, has an unconventional game and she made life very tricky for Raducanu in the opening set but the 21-year-old dug in well to secure a 7-6 (0) 6-3 victory and become the first British winner of the tournament.

“It was an incredibly difficult match,” said Raducanu. “It took a lot of strength to get over the line. All props to her. In the morning you’re not in the draw and then you’re playing in Centre Court.

“It took a little bit of adjusting and finding my feet. I just want to say thanks to everyone for the support. I’m incredibly happy to be back here of course. I was for sure nervous but at the end of the day you just have to do what it takes.”

The former US Open champion was back on Centre two years after her last match, having missed the 2023 tournament following wrist and ankle surgeries.

David Beckham stands in the Royal Box on Centre Court alongside his mum
David Beckham was in attendance with his mum (John Walton/PA)

David Beckham and Sir David Attenborough were among those watching from the Royal Box, and Raducanu made a statement of intent with a forehand return winner drilled down the line on the first point.

But Zarazua was not about to be blown off court, the diminutive 26-year-old using drop shots, lobs and chopped forehands to prevent Raducanu getting into a rhythm.

After saving a break point in the fourth game with a backhand cross-court winner that fizzed off the line, Raducanu moved ahead in the next game only to hand the advantage back as Zarazua made it 4-4.

Going into the tie-break it was anyone’s set, but a fired-up Raducanu seized the initiative from the start and did not lose a point.

Emma Raducanu shouts in celebration
Emma Raducanu won the tie-break 7-0 (John Walton/PA)

Still it was by no means comfortable, with Raducanu saving two break points at 1-1 in the second set as she sought to find the balance between consistency and aggression.

The breakthrough came at 3-2 as Zarazua’s level dipped, and the 21-year-old had the chance to win the match with a second break.

She could not take it but she was nerveless serving it out, setting up another match point with a brilliant dinked forehand winner, and a backhand long from Zarazua booked Raducanu a second-round clash on Wednesday with Belgium’s Elise Mertens.

Raducanu will not want to get too far ahead of herself but, with eighth seed Zheng Qinwen an early loser and the withdrawal of third seed Aryna Sabalenka through injury, her section of the draw is wide open.