Emma Raducanu channeled her inner Rafa Nadal as she advanced to the second round at Wimbledon on Monday to the delight of her home crowd.
The 19-year-old US Open champion defeated Alison Van Uytvanck 6-4 6-4 in the first round despite failing to prevail in the match.
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Raducanu came to Wimbledon with concerns for his fitness, but he broke his Belgian opponent’s serve in the seventh game of the match.
Van Uytvanck fell back, but Raducanu again seized the initiative by breaking again, and then survived a tough test on his serve to take the first set 6-4.
The pair traded breaks in the second set and Raducanu broke again in game nine, comfortably holding serve and sealing victory with a backhand volley to the delight of the crowd.
However, it was his actions at the post-match press conference that drew the most attention, as he was wearing a polo shirt with Nadal’s fighting bull logo on the front.
She was also seen wearing a Nadal jersey on the practice court on Monday morning before her match.
Explaining why she chose to wear Nadal’s jersey, the Briton said she is looking to learn from the 22-time Grand Slam champion, who has won the Australian Open and French Open so far this year.
“I think Rafa embodies fighting, that kind of energy,” he said.
“That’s what I’m contributing. In terms of energy, I think I’ve had a difficult year, as if it’s not a secret.
“It’s worth going out on Center Court and getting a win like that.
“I am definitely very happy to be here. All the lessons I learned last year will only be useful for me in the future.”
Fans went wild after seeing Raducanu in Nadal’s jersey, however the reaction was not entirely positive.
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Raducanu, who has not won more than two matches at a tournament since her first Grand Slam triumph at the US Open last year, will face France’s Caroline Garcia in the second round.
He admitted that his preparations for Wimbledon had not been ideal.
“I didn’t play tennis for two weeks, then this week I’ve been playing like an hour a day,” he said.
“My preparation was not necessarily the best.
“But I know that when it comes to matches, I feel like I really turn on especially. I don’t feel like I need a huge amount of preparation. Of course, I need it to develop physically.”
“I think a lot of it is mental, and I definitely came out with the belief today.
“I know I can compete with anybody on the other end of the floor when I really try.”
Meanwhile, the new number 2 in the world Ons Jabeur recorded a resounding 6-1 6-3 victory over Swedish qualifier Mirjam Bjorklund to be the first big gun to advance to the second round.
Estonian third seed Anett Kontaveit did the same, beating American Bernarda Pera 7-5 6-1.
Jabeur’s win made up for an upset first-round loss at the French Open to Magda Linette in her most recent Grand Slam appearance.
“I don’t like to make the mistake twice,” Jabeur said.
“I learned a lot from the first round at Roland Garros. Obviously everything feels different here. I feel like more prepared.”
The 27-year-old is the first African to reach No. 2 in the rankings and said she hopes to inspire more Arabs to take up the sport.
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