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On the eve of the biggest match of her career, one of Emma Raducanu’s coaching team said nothing would stop her, with the caveat “if her body holds up”.
When she needed it most, it didn’t, the breathlessness with which the teenager has played over the past week finally seeping out of her in a painful exit from the tournament - an agonising watch from the stands.
The 18-year-old deserved to bow out on Court No1 with an ovation from a crowd in rapture to British tennis’ new darling. Instead, it ended with her fighting to catch her breath behind a mask as she walked off court with her head bowed.
The signs were promising this morning that there was no lasting physical impact from the night’s exertions. And when asked what advice she would imbue, Raducanu’s Fed Cup captain Anne Keothavong was forthright.
“I don’t think she needs my advice,” she said quite succinctly. “She’s got good people around her, she will be protected.”
Keothavong is one of those people, sat in the stands with Raducanu’s parents Ian and Renee, for whom it must have been a harrowing watch, rooted to their seats and unable to go to their aid of the daughter amid Wimbledon’s player bubble.
The message from dad in the aftermath was essentially that the level had been too high – be that the opponent, the magnitude of the occasion, the expectation of the public or a combination of it all.
And yet the sentiment from those around her was quite simply that she would bounce back bigger and better, not just lip service as has been proffered to other fallen Brits at Wimbledon, who would not go on to back it up.
For the dramatic nature of her exit, her coach for two years and hitting partner Matt James said, “I can guarantee she will come back stronger” while Keothavong talked of the player both fronting up to the public in due course and returning to competitive action as soon as possible.
This is just a blip in Raducanu’s career trajectory, and Andy Murray had enough of those in his time from those first uncertain times on grass to the lost Grand Slam finals before his own Wimbledon triumph in 2013.
That’s not to suggest that Raducanu will go on to emulate Murray’s level of success but there is enough at this early stage to suggest she has the weapons to do so.
Little separated her from Ajla Tomljanovic in the first set, only when that went against her by the narrowest of margins having thrown everything at it did things fall apart at the seams.
There are clearly improvements needed in her game. While a good weapon, she needs more zip on that serve and to become physically stronger, easy enough dual fixes for an 18-year-old. Her backhand will be the envy of much of the women’s draw but she will need to be less rooted to the baseline in the future, again a not insurmountable thing to overcome having just four Grand Slam matches to her name.
This seems like no more than a wobble and an understandable one at that with the pressure of the occasion and the lateness of the match because of the ludicrously late scheduling by Wimbledon meaning she only came onto court at 8pm.
There was the full day’s build-up, which her team tried to diminish by getting her to practise at Aorangi rather than one of Wimbledon’s outside courts to diminish the prying eyes. Plus, there were the newspaper pages – front and back, the interviews with the BBC and the scrutiny of her performance by pundits, some of whom admitted that had not heard of her before the championships much like the British public.
It would take a hermit of some proportions not to have at least heard her name now.
The sky may have fallen in on her dream run but those around her will stick to the message from coach Nigel Sears that “the sky’s the limit”.