Sun shines to rain on Raducanu parade

Sun shines to rain on Raducanu parade

LONDON-- The word "astonish" decorated the front of Lulu Sun's white shirt and it proved an entirely appropriate flourish as the 123rd-ranked qualifier dished out a juddering Wimbledon reality check to Britain's Emma Raducanu on Sunday. The flickering hope that Raducanu's renaissance could last the distance at the grasscourt Grand Slam was snuffed out emphatically as Sun knocked out Britain's last player standing 6-2 5-7 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals.

Raducanu knew all about the dangers posed by qualifiers at the majors after she herself had triumphed as one at the U.S. Open nearly three years ago. Yet Sun's performance was so impressive that even Raducanu must have been slightly astonished by the ice-cool composure and unflappable bravery the New Zealander showed to outplay the 2021 Flushing Meadows champion in front of a pumped-up home crowd on Centre Court. "It was a great match. I really dug deep to get the win," Sun said, composing herself having dissolved into tears before her on-court interview. "I really had to fight tooth and nail because she was obviously going to run for every ball and fight until the end." Raducanu had shown glimpses of her best form over the opening week at the All England Club, and her victory over ninth-seed Maria Sakkari in the previous round had sparked hope among British fans that her revival could prompt a deep run at her home tournament. "Six months ago when I was starting out after surgery, I would have signed for fourth round at Wimbledon," said Raducanu, who had operations on both hands and her left ankle last year. "Of course I'm disappointed. Of course I want more. I think everything does happen for a reason. It just fuels the fire and makes me more hungry." Yet Sunday's display showed that she was still some way short of the player who stunned the sport as an 18-year-old in New York. OFF THE PACE From the start, Raducanu seemed off the pace, almost sleepy in comparison to the high-energy Sun, whose ground strokes had far more zip and penetration. By contrast Raducanu's forehand lacked its usual fizz and she seemed to fear releasing the handbrake, perhaps because every time she did, she was frequently off target. She was unable to build any sustained pressure on the unflappable and indefatigable left-hander Sun, whose level rarely dipped below a ferocious intensity. Raducanu may have feared a swell of disapproval from the Centre Court crowd after she brought the curtain down on Andy Murray's Wimbledon farewell by pulling out of the mixed doubles on Thursday citing stiffness in her wrist. Yet under the Centre Court roof as the rain fell outside, the fans did their bit, willing her to get a foothold in a contest that Sun seemed to have under firm control. New Zealand's Sun was superior in all departments racing into a 3-0 lead in the opening set with a double break before comfortably holding off a Raducanu fightback with another break to claim the opener. The Briton was clinging on for dear life after that, but managed to take the match into a decider with a decisive break in the final game of the second set, yet that was as close as she got to turning the encounter on its head. After a nasty fall and some lengthy treatment, Raducanu was broken in the first game of the third set and again as Sun took a 5-2 lead. Raducanu staved off one match point but Sun would not be denied, smacking a forehand winner to earn another and wrapping up victory when the Briton hit a return long. "I think I gave my best, I fought really hard. I think today her tennis was better and she deserved the win," Raducanu said. If Sun, born in the south of New Zealand to a Croatian father and Chinese mother, was something of an unknown quantity before, her future opponents are catching on fast. Croatia's Donna Vekic lies in wait in the quarters and now has some idea of what to expect. "No one makes the quarter-finals of Wimbledon by accident," she said. "She's obviously playing great tennis. It will be a tough match."

The Daily Herald

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