The 'Emma Raducanu effect' is working – despite her early exit from Wimbledon

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She may be struggling for form, but Emma Raducanu has inspired her fellow Brits - GETTY IMAGES
She may be struggling for form, but Emma Raducanu has inspired her fellow Brits - GETTY IMAGES

On Saturday, Katie Boulter will battle for a place in the second week at Wimbledon for the first time in her career. Her source of inspiration? Emma Raducanu.

"What she did was astonishing," Boulter said on Thursday. "She came out, she surprised everyone, and she played some fearless tennis. That's what's so impressive. I hope I can go out there and do the same thing. I'd love to do what she's done. You never know, one day it might happen."

That newfound belief has spread across British tennis. Boulter is six years Raducanu's senior, and has far more tour-level experience and a slew of serious injuries under her belt. But, like the rest of the British pack at Wimbledon not named Andy Murray, she has never come close to achieving what Raducanu did in her debut season.

Raducanu, 19, has since been thrust into the spotlight and experienced well-documented teething issues adapting to the tour. Though she was unable to match her astonishing New York heroics at Wimbledon this week, and fell to Caroline Garcia in the second round, her impact has been felt widely.

Just as 100,000 Britons took up recreational tennis in the three months after Raducanu's US Open victory, so too has there been an uptake in results for the elite cohort. The Raducanu bounce in British tennis has been notable: 10 reached the second round in singles at the All England Club this week, the most in 38 years. Boulter is also one of four Brits who made the third round, a feat that has only been achieved four times in the last 25 years.

If Boulter or Liam Broady can back up wins from Heather Watson and Cam Norrie, there will be more than two British players in the second week at Wimbledon for the first time since 1979.

The irony is that neither Raducanu nor Murray, the two most successful active British players, will be joining them. But both major champions have played their part in the rise of this British group, says Boulter's coach Jeremy Bates. "You've got Andy who’s won a bunch of slams, has been there for the last 15 years," Bates says. "Undoubtedly, the familiarity for the men being around Andy over the course of that period of time rubs off.

"The girls obviously know Emma very well. When you're familiar with somebody who's at the top, you learn from what they do on a day-to-day basis, you understand more about them, and I think naturally there's a subconscious increase in belief."

Katie Boulter has cited Raducanu as a source of inspiration - HEATHCLIFF O'MALLEY
Katie Boulter has cited Raducanu as a source of inspiration - HEATHCLIFF O'MALLEY

Former world No 4 Johanna Konta's retirement from tennis late last year had the potential to expand the gap between Raducanu and the rest of the British women on tour. While the ranking difference remains stark, some of the more seasoned players have instead suddenly found a way to achieve long-held goals. Watson, 30, reached her first ever fourth round at a Grand Slam – 10 years after making her debut in the third round.

She said the momentum among the Brits this week had helped her get over the line, and cited a newfound camaraderie – born out of lockdown – in the group. "Seeing them do well definitely spurs me on," she said, sharing that she had watched every single British tie at Wimbledon this week.

"I think what brought us together was during Covid, we had those Battle of the Brits tournaments. I feel like since then everyone has become a lot closer. I think there's a lot of credit for those events that happened in people's form and people coming together and supporting each other."

There have been other notable results this year, beyond Wimbledon. Boulter beat Karolina Pliskova at Eastbourne too. Harriet Dart ousted former top-five player Elina Svitolina at Indian Wells, and broke into the top 100 for the first time this season.

Katie Swan beat former US Open champion Sloane Stephens on grass in Hamburg. Ryan Peniston punched well above his weight during the grass-court season, beating French Open finalist Casper Ruud and reaching two ATP quarter-finals on his first go. Rising star Jack Draper, 20, scored recent wins over top-15 players Diego Schwartzman and Taylor Fritz, and has won four Challenger titles this year.

Despite Draper's run at Wimbledon being cut short, he said Raducanu's breakthrough had made him feel ready to make his own. "What [Raducanu] did last year was beyond belief, it was crazy, and I think it gave a lot of British tennis players massive belief in themselves that they could do something similar," he said pre-tournament. "I think we're all grateful to her for giving us that motivation and drive to want to kick on ourselves."

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