Emma Raducanu has been knocked out of Wimbledon in the second round, sapping the tournament of star power and dealing a blow to the bevy of big-name sponsors who back her.
In front of a packed centre court, the British number one — ranked 11th in the world — lost in straight sets to Caroline Garcia of France on Wednesday afternoon. The support from the home crowd failed to lift Raducanu’s game as she struggled against Garcia, ranked 55th in the world.
Raducanu, 19, has become the face of British tennis since her surprise win at the US Open last year. A towering 3D billboard of the player hitting a giant tennis ball greets people arriving at Wimbledon train station, while the London Underground interchange taking people to south-west London is plastered with her image.
But she has struggled to regain the form that won her a Grand Slam, losing in the second round at the French and Australian Opens this year. Injuries had raised doubts over whether she would appear at Wimbledon, while she is currently without a coach.
“Obviously it’s tough to lose any match,” she said afterwards. “But it’s okay because coming into this I didn’t really have many expectations of myself.”
Asked whether the intense media spotlight had been a challenge for her this year, she said: “I am 19 years old. Yes, I have had attention. But I’m a slam champion, so no one’s going to take that away from me. If anything, the pressure is on those who haven’t done that.”
Raducanu’s departure at such an early stage will be a blow to her many big corporate backers, including HSBC, Vodafone, British Airways and Porsche.
The British player’s exit from the tournament on day three came less than 24 hours after Serena Williams, the seven-time champion, lost in the first round to Harmony Tan. Williams returned to the court after a year out, bringing some much welcomed star power to the women’s side of the draw. But her long hiatus was keenly felt during a bruising three-hour encounter.
Asked afterwards whether she would return to Wimbledon in the future, Williams said: “That’s a question I can’t answer. I don’t know. Who knows?”
The two early departures have sapped the Championships of some of its best-known players. Williams has 15mn Instagram followers, while Raducanu boasts 2.4mn. Wimbledon itself has 3.3mn.
That compares to the 1mn who follow the WTA — which runs the women’s tour — and the 900k keeping tabs on Iga Świątek, the world number one and heavy favourite to win Wimbledon this year.
Ash Barty, the 25-year-old reigning women’s champion, is not taking part after her shock retirement earlier this year, saying she was “spent” and citing the emotional pressures of being on tour.
The men’s draw is also without world number one Daniil Medvedev after Wimbledon barred Russian players from taking part over the war in Ukraine.
British hopes will now turn to Andy Murray, who went on centre court straight after Raducanu to face John Isner of the US, and Cameron Norrie, who beat Spain’s Jaume Munar in five sets to reach the third round.