Thousands of tennis fans cheered Emma Raducanu to victory at Wimbledon on Monday as the tournament returned to capacity for the first time in three years.
The 19-year-old US Open champion received a standing ovation after defeating the Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck in straight sets on her Center Court debut.
Her mother, Renee Zhao, and her childhood coach, Jane O’Donoghue, were watching on as Raducanu told the crowd it was an “incredibly special feeling” to return to Wimbledon.
“I’ve been feeling it ever since I stepped on to the practice court, hearing people saying, ‘Emma, you’ve got this’ and I think ‘You’ve got this’,” she said. Her next opponent for her will be France’s Caroline Garcia.
Last year Raducanu charmed fans as she reached the fourth round of Wimbledon weeks after finishing her A-levels, and two months later she won the US Open without dropping a set. Since then she has battled various injuries, sustaining a side strain at a tournament in Nottingham this month.
She told reporters: “I’ve had a tough year, it’s no secret. I feel like I’ve learned a lot in the last year. But it hasn’t necessarily all been terrible. I won my first round at every slam. As a 19-year-old, I pretty much just took my gap year and [am] starting again now.”
Wimbledon’s grounds will be packed with up to 42,000 people each day during this year’s tournament, after crowds were reduced by 50% in 2021 because of the Covid pandemic. Fans camped out from 11pm on Friday in an attempt to buy on-the-door tickets before a blockbuster first day.
Dave Sullivan, 60, from Derby, and his mother, Pam, from Leicester, were excited to join the famous queue again. Sullivan said: “We’ve camped since 6pm yesterday, it’s my ninth time and Mum’s eighth time, she’s 85. We’ve upgraded the tent over the years and the camp beds, air beds, seats. We’ve done this for years. This is the furthest forward in the queue we’ve ever been, number 76 and 77. We’ve always loved Wimbledon.”
Sally Bolton, the chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, said the cost of living crisis had had an impact on prices. A glass of Pimm’s cost £9.75, up from £8.50, while a Sipsmith gin and tonic was £9, up from £7.
“Like every other business, our costs are increasing across the board, so we’re having to balance that challenge. As much as we can, we’re trying not to pass that on to the consumer,” Bolton said. “One of the most iconic parts of our food and drink offer, strawberries, are kept at £2.50 and have been now since 2010, so we’ve retained those at an accessible price despite input prices going up.”
Michelle Patrick, 33, from Glasgow, said she was shocked by the cost of Pimm’s. “The last time I was here was in 2009 and I think I paid £12 for two drinks – now I have just paid £20. It’s very expensive, even by London standards,” she said.
The two-time men’s singles champion Andy Murray, 35, was facing Australia’s James Duckworth on Monday night. Cameron Norrie, 26, the highest-ranked British player in the men’s draw, defeated Spain’s Pablo Andújar in straight sets.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism