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Britain’s rising stars get a chance to shine at Wimbledon | Wimbledon 2022

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Last Wednesday night, Wimbledon, the organisers, the BBC and the sponsors, had a problem: Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu, the two British players with pedigrees of big prime-time matches, had just been eliminated from the tournament. Serena Williams, the event’s other main story, had left the day before. Roger Federer, another infallible ratings banker for the past 20 years, was injured and did not make it to London. The stars fell from the sky. Who was going to fill the void?

Turns out we viewers shouldn’t have worried. Instead, the first week at Wimbledon 2022 has been dominated by substitutes: British players are more used to being backstage than center stage. We’ve seen the best performances from Liam Broady, Katie Boulter, Heather Watson and Cameron Norrie. They may not have started the event as household names, but their stories were rich and poignant. Success has invariably come after long periods of struggle and doubt.

Saturday, however, was a reality check for the Brits, especially Boulter. The 25-year-old from Leicestershire became the latest player to “get a tan” from France’s Harmony Tan, Tuesday’s upset win against Serena Williams. She was defeated 6-1, 6-1 in less than an hour.

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It must have been an exhausting week for Boulter. After beating last year’s finalist Karolina Pliskova on Thursday, the biggest victory of her career, he revealed that her grandmother had died the day before the match. Against Tan, the occasion, and perhaps the anticipation, seemed to leave Boulter unstuck. “I’ve played some great games this week, but it’s also been very emotional,” she said. “I think today was a step too far for me. Thanks to her, I was playing hard, hard tennis. But yes, today was not easy for me.”

Much of the discussion before, and even after, the match centered on its scheduling: 11 a.m. on Court No. 2 instead of a show court in front of 15,000 supportive fans. Tabloids were incensed by “snubbed Boulter” and “botched blazers.” In the event, it was hard to argue that it would have been a different story in a different court. And Boulter, to be fair, didn’t try: “You can see it on paper,” he said. “You’re supposed to put the best matches on center court and court one. It’s a privilege to play on those courts, and I would never expect it.”

A bearded Cameron Norrie looks up, slightly raising his fist.
Cameron Norrie celebrates winning the first set during his men’s singles match against Steve Johnson on July 1. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA

Meanwhile, Broady was on Court One, but a raucous home crowd couldn’t help him against Australian Alex De Minaur, who happens to be Boulter’s boyfriend. Broady, the 132-ranked 28-year-old from Stockport, has provided excellent value on and off the pitch this week, but the matchup against 19th-seeded De Minaur was always going to be a tough one, and despite one last epic hurrah, he lost 6-3, 6-4, 7-5.

Still, it has been an encouraging showing for British tennis this week. No one personifies the spirit of perseverance better than Heather Watson, the 30-year-old from Guernsey, ranked 121. She has made 43 Grand Slam appearances, including 12 visits to Wimbledon, but has never made it to the second week before. in singles That changed on Friday, when she finally pulled it off with a quiet and, by her standards, relatively undramatic 7-6, 6-2 victory over Kaja Juvan.

Watson, who has battled injuries for much of the past two years, was later asked if he thought his ship had sailed. “No possibility!” She answered. “I wouldn’t be playing yet if I thought that ship had sailed.” On Sunday, Watson takes on 97th-ranked German Jule Niemeier in the fourth round on Center Court, with a realistic chance of continuing the dream and reaching the quarterfinals.

There is even more optimism, if still cautious, around Cameron Norrie. The 26-year-old could hardly be described as “under the radar” (he has seeded nine at Wimbledon), but he keeps a low profile: “Keep Cam and Norrie On” is his style. This year, however, he has shown unprecedented ease on the pitch and has also been gifted a dream draw. This is the first time that Norrie, like Watson, has reached the fourth round at a Grand Slam. “It’s nice to check that box, but I’m not satisfied at all,” he said Friday night after beating Steve Johnson in straight sets. “I want to keep going forward”.

On Sunday he faces another American, Tommy Paul, who is making his Wimbledon debut. He awaits his new signature chant of “Norrie, Norrie, Norrie! Hey Hey hey!” to flip Court No. 1 (and more scheduling controversy). The path to at least the semi-final looks good for Britain’s No.1, not that he’s getting carried away. “I’ll take that,” he said of his draw. “It is a great opportunity, but there is still a lot of hard work to be done.”

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