Raducanu dismantles Sakkari to reach Wimbledon last 16

Britain’s Emma Raducanu made a strong statement of intent by dismantling Greek ninth seed Maria Sakkari to reach the Wimbledon fourth round.

Raducanu, 21, again showcased some of her best tennis in a 6-2 6-3 win under the Centre Court roof.

"Today was really up there with the most fun I’ve had on a tennis court," said Raducanu, who beat Sakkari in the semi-finals of her incredible 2021 US Open win.

"I was telling myself, 'how many times in your life are you going to play in front of a full Centre Court?'"

Given a wildcard to play after plummeting outside of the world’s top 100 following injury, she has not lost a set in the first week of the Championships.

Raducanu, who has matched her career-best run to the fourth round in 2021, has dropped just 11 games since coming through a tie-break in her opening match.

She is the first Briton through to the last 16 of this year’s Wimbledon singles, with Sonay Kartal earlier losing to American second seed Coco Gauff on a wet Friday at the All England Club.

Kartal, the first British qualifier to reach the women's third round at Wimbledon since 1997, was beaten 6-4 6-0 under the roof on Court One.

Next in Raducanu’s path is 123rd-ranked Lulu Sun, a qualifier from New Zealand who had never won a main-draw Grand Slam match until this week.

The smile is back - and the shots

A lot has happened since Raducanu and Sakkari last met on court during the Briton’s fairytale in New York.

Raducanu’s life changed forever after that fortnight, but the highs were quickly followed by the lows of injuries and dealing with expectation.

This summer, she has been smiling again. A cheerier demeanour has been symbolic of Raducanu rediscovering her love for the sport.

Some eyebrows were raised by her decision to skip the clay-court French Open in order to focus on the British grass-court season, but the move has proved a smart one.

A confidence-boosting run to the Nottingham semi-finals was backed up by reaching the Eastbourne quarter-finals.

On the English south coast, Raducanu beat American world number five Jessica Pegula for the first victory of her career against a top-10 opponent.

Another has arrived within a fortnight by beating Sakkari, and this takes her into the last 16 of a major for the first time since her US Open triumph.

Emma Raducanu celebrates at Wimbledon
Raducanu faced seven break points against Sakkari but did not lose her serve [Getty Images]

Raducanu dominated off the first serve, ably supported by her power from the baseline, to take the Greek's serve in the first game of the match and saw off three break points to lead 4-2.

Having won just one of her previous six Grand Slam matches before arriving in SW19, Sakkari has ended a poor run at the majors.

But her confidence was quickly worn down by Raducanu's resilience.

Spectacular shots backed up the Briton's solidity.

An audacious lob as she defended deep dusted the back of the court for a 5-2 lead and she held serve - after seeing off two more break points to win the first set in 45 minutes.

Raducanu continued to pound the ball and push Sakkari back in the second set.

After breaking for a 2-1 lead, she saved two break points in the next game before taking Sakkari's serve again in the final game with a third match point.

A broad smile broke out across Raducanu's face as she skipped around the court and soaked up the acclaim of the happy home fans.

Kartal causes problems before dream run ends

Sonay Kartal plays a backhand during her Wimbledon third-round match against Coco Gauff
Sonay Kartal is the British number nine [EPA]

Kartal's run has been one of the stories of Wimbledon so far.

Raised in Brighton, she regularly played Raducanu at junior level and a clip of a long rally between them when they were nine has previously gone viral.

Raducanu won the 2021 US Open as an 18-year-old qualifier, but Kartal's development has been checked by injuries and illness. Earlier this year, she did not expect to play at Wimbledon because of a "scary" health problem.

This week, Kartal said she had "spent my whole life kind of under the radar a little bit", but playing the current US Open champion gave her the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Kartal, ranked 298th in the world, tested Gauff in the first set before the second seed established control.

The Briton said she was "proud" of her performance here and in qualifying, adding: "I think my first set today, that set today and the whole week, has given me confidence to prove that my level is up there.

"I've never come out with someone like Coco before. There's a reason why she is where she is, number two in the world. She played some unbelievable tennis in that second set."

Gauff, who will now play fellow American Emma Navarro, the 19th seed, said: "She was playing at a high level and wasn't giving me much to work with. She mixes up her variety and didn't let me settle. I felt I was going for the right shots but just missing.

"Eventually I found them and was able to win."

It was an unnerving start as Gauff won the first eight points but Kartal settled and went toe-to-toe with her opponent from the baseline. The crowd responded and a Gauff double fault allowed her to break back for 4-4.

However, the match turned in the next game when, at deuce, a Gauff backhand was called long. The American challenged and celebrated when the review showed the ball clipping the back of the line. Another backhand winner on the next point gave her the break and, soon after, a Gauff ace sealed the set, prompting a roar to her team.

Kartal was again broken to love at the start of the second set and Gauff, who won 90% of her first-serve points, raced through it to move on.