“She’s bringing that magic, that New York magic,” BBC commentator Sam Smith said of Emma Raducanu, as the 19-year-old inched closer to victory against Alison Van Uytvanck at Wimbledon on Monday.

That “New York magic,” of course, is what made Raducanu one of the most surprising Grand Slam champions in tennis history last summer at the US Open. Since then, her career, filled as it has been with injuries, early losses and an ever-spinning coaching carousel, has been anything but magical—she was 8-11 on the year before today. But Raducanu is obviously a player who shines brightest on the big stage, and that’s what she did in her first match on the biggest of all, Centre Court.

After all of the media scrutiny over the last 10 months, the 100-year-old arena seemed to provide a refuge for Raducanu, a place where she was free again simply to perform.

“I felt the support the minute I walked through those doors,” Raducanu said after her 6-4, 6-4 win over Van Uytvanck. (Watch the match point below.)


The match wasn’t as tidy as those symmetrical scores might indicate. There were six breaks of serve and 19 break points in total, and the momentum blew from one side of the net to the other without warning. Both women made more errors than winners—Raducanu was minus-five, Van Uytvanck minus-12. And it took some time for the Brit to find a rhythm against the Belgian’s unorthodox grab bag of spins and paces. On a couple of occasions, Van Uytvanck’s slice led to a badly shanked response from Raducanu.

“She’s an extremely tricky opponent,” Raducanu said. “She hits the ball extremely hard, so it’s tough.”

But this was a performance that gradually, in fits and starts, grew more assured. Raducanu started by showing that she could adjust to Van Uytvanck’s slice by slicing the ball even more deftly and delicately back. Then she reminded us what her most reliable weapon is—her two-handed backhand—by snapping a few crosscourt for winners.

Finally, in the second set, she brought her forehand up to speed, passing Van Uytvanck twice with it, and hitting a crowd-pleasing, sharp-angled crosscourt winner on the run. Broken while serving at 1-2 in the second set, Raducanu immediately broke back at love. And she served the match out with another crosscourt backhand winner to get to 30-0, and a nicely measured drop shot-volley combination at match point.


“‘Emma, you got this,’” she said she heard someone on the grounds shout to her. “‘Yeah, I got this,’” she responded.

“‘Emma, you got this,’” she said she heard someone on the grounds shout to her. “‘Yeah, I got this,’” she responded.

“It was an incredibly special feeling,” Raducanu said of being back at Wimbledon, in front of British fans who had hardly had a chance to see her play in a year, and who may have felt some trepidation about how she would do. But Raducanu said she has felt a lot of positive vibes at Wimbledon so far.

“‘Emma, you got this,’” she said she heard someone on the grounds shout to her. “‘Yeah, I got this,’” she responded. She seemed pleasantly surprised by her confident reaction.

How long can Raducanu keep the magic going this time? At the last two majors, in Melbourne and Paris, she won one match and lost the next. This time she’ll play Caroline Garcia in the second round, a better player than Van Uytvanck, but one whom Raducanu beat earlier this year at Indian Wells. There’s obviously no ceiling for Raducanu at the Slams. Let’s see, after a year of dealing with the world at large, if she can keep finding a refuge on her own, in the middle of the arena, doing what she does best.