Belinda Bencic despite pressure and injury

At 18, British Emma Raducanu won the US Open out of nowhere. But the confirmation of this success is still pending. Belinda Bencic knows how difficult it is to meet high expectations.

After her steep rise, Brit Emma Raducanu recently struggled with problems. But that doesn’t stop the hype surrounding them.

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Women’s tennis keeps writing stories of unexpected winners. Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu, Sofia Kenin, Iga Swiatek, Barbora Krejcikova: they all came out of nowhere and were suddenly Grand Slam winners. But no surprise was greater than that of Emma Raducanu. At the age of 18, the Briton with Chinese and Canadian roots stringed together ten victories in the last US Open and was the first qualifier to win a major tournament.

Raducanu was not entirely unknown at the time. Two months before her run in New York, she had already reached the fourth round at Wimbledon with a wild card before she had to give up there against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic with breathing problems. Quite a few suspected that the rapid success had taken her breath away and that she was overwhelmed.

Raducanu triggered a hype in the UK

Now Raducanu is at a similar point again. At Wimbledon, she becomes the first British Grand Slam winner since Virginia Wade in 1977. After her victory at the US Open, there was a hype around her in the Empire that was not easy for a teenage woman to cope with.

She was voted Sportswoman of the Year by the BBC. The British Tennis Association registered an enormous influx of young women who wanted to be like Raducanu. Her first name, Emma, ​​became something of a brand. International companies such as Porsche, Tiffany, British Airways, Evian, Dior and Vodafone contracted her as an advertising ambassador.

But Raducanu’s performances in the new season have not kept pace with her reputation as a potential new superstar in women’s tennis. She lost 11 of 19 of her games. Both at the Australian Open and a month ago in Roland-Garros, she failed in the second round. Three weeks ago she had to withdraw from the preparatory tournament in Nottingham in the first round against Viktorija Golubic because of unspecified muscular problems. For a long time, even her start at Wimbledon seemed endangered.

On Monday she started. In her first match ever on the legendary Center Court, she beat Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck 6:4, 6:4. Barely two hours later, she was sitting in the facility’s large interview room, beaming all over her face and telling how unbelievable the experience had been. “I played every ball as if it were my last.”

Raducanu has become something of a role model for many other players in just a few short weeks. The American Coco Gauff said a month ago in Paris that she had shown her how to win a major title. Gauff made it to the final in Roland-Garros, but failed there clearly at world number one Iga Swiatek.

Belinda Bencic still has to wait for her first Grand Slam title.

Belinda Bencic still has to wait for her first Grand Slam title.

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Battered Bencic saves himself in the third set

For other players like Belinda Bencic, Raducanu’s example is more of a burden than an inspiration. The Brit has already won what she has so far been denied. In 2013, the eastern Swiss won the junior tournament in Wimbledon at the age of 16. Just over a year later, she stormed into the quarterfinals at the US Open in one of her first Grand Slam tournaments.

But now, at the age of 25, she is still waiting for her first major title. Bencic became Olympic champion in Tokyo last summer. In Wimbledon, her declared favorite tournament, she has never made it past the round of 16.

The grass season had started well for Bencic. In Berlin she reached the final against the Tunisian Ons Jabeur. But then she stumbled there and overextended her knee. With a week’s break from competition and intensive therapy, she tried to get fit again in time. Before starting Wimbledon, she said: “One day more break would have been good.”

The first round match against the already 30-year-old Chinese Qiang Wang (WTA 140) seemed to confirm that. Bencic led 4:2 in the first set, but then lost eight games in a row and apparently lost the match as well. But the Chinese then reduced to the same extent as before Bencic. She lost the second set despite a 4-0 and 5-1 lead. When the score was 4:6, 7:5, the game was interrupted due to darkness and postponed to Tuesday. Belinda Bencic’s hope of emulating Emma Raducanu lives on, at least for a day.

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