Emma Raducanu declares herself fit for 'special' Wimbledon

'Full steam ahead': Emma Raducanu declares herself fit for Wimbledon - GETTY IMAGES
'Full steam ahead': Emma Raducanu declares herself fit for Wimbledon - GETTY IMAGES

Emma Raducanu has insisted she is "ready to go" for her Wimbledon homecoming, after weeks of uncertainty due to her fitness troubles.

US Open champion Raducanu said it was a "dream" to be chosen as the second match on Centre Court on Monday, between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray's respective first-round ties. 

But her build up has been far from ideal. There have been major doubts over her ability to recover in time from a side strain that she picked up in Nottingham on June 7 - which forced her to take two weeks off.

On Saturday she admitted that withdrawing was still on the table in the early parts of this week, but she had made enough progress since to commit. "Definitely, there were moments earlier on in the week we weren't really sure," she told reporters. "We were sort of going to see how the week goes. But it went pretty well. Now it's full steam ahead. Everyone's really looking forward to it. We're all ready."

Raducanu, 19, trained at the practice courts at Aorangi Park on Saturday afternoon under the watchful gaze of her mother Renee and childhood coach Jane O’Donoghue.

O'Donoghue worked with Raducanu when she was a Lawn Tennis Association coach, but switched to a finance career from 2019. She appears to have taken time off from her day job with the Royal Bank of Canada to guide her former charge at Wimbledon this year, who remains without a full-time coach.

Childhood coach Jane O’Donoghue appears to have been drafted back in to help Raducanu at Wimbledon - GETTY IMAGES
Childhood coach Jane O’Donoghue appears to have been drafted back in to help Raducanu at Wimbledon - GETTY IMAGES

Though Raducanu was able to practise all her main shots on Saturday without much difficulty, including her serve, she ducked questions about whether she was playing pain-free: "Right now I'm fit. I'm ready to go. I'm looking forward to it. That's it."

Alarm bells had been ringing on Friday, when she pulled out of a scheduled training session on No. 1 Court with former champion Garbine Muguruza at the last minute. She clarified that the decision was made in order to stay "fresh", and all indications suggest that she will be on Centre Court playing against Belgium's Alison Van Uytvanck come Monday.

It will be her first time playing on the main show court at Wimbledon, after her life-changing breakthrough here last summer, when she reached the fourth round on her debut.

For all her newfound elevated status, world No 46 Van Uytvanck remains a tricky first round opponent. Raducanu is taking confidence from their only previous meeting, which she won in straight sets at a Challenger event in Chicago last August. "I definitely feel like, game-wise, I back myself pretty much against anyone," Raducanu said. "I feel if I really put my mind to it and commit, then I can be pretty good.

"But she's a real tricky opponent, especially on grass courts. She plays a pretty quick, high-tempo game. It's definitely going to take some getting used to."

Raducanu's last six months have been punctuated by persistent injury trouble, coaching changes and more modest results than last season. But being back at the All England Club grounds has put a spring in her step and she appeared wide-eyed watching 22-time major champion Rafael Nadal's training session on Saturday.

She said returning to Wimbledon has given her "a really special feeling". "I feel the same excitement this year, because I think Wimbledon just brings that out of me especially," she said. "I get such a special feeling walking around the grounds, I definitely feel that people are behind me. Even from some of the people working on the tournament, they're like, 'You got this'. Just cheering me on. That's pretty special in itself.

"[I'm] just going to play like a kid who loves playing tennis. It's always my dream to step out on Centre Court. It's something I've always wanted to do and started playing tennis for. I'm not playing for anyone; just to go out there and play for myself."