Emma Raducanu put her difficult build-up behind her as she marked her Center Court debut by beating Alison Van Uytvanck to reach the second round of Wimbledon.
The 10th seed’s entry into the tournament was in doubt until the weekend due to a side injury sustained at the WTA Tour event in Nottingham three weeks ago.
Coupled with the huge focus on the US Open champion’s homecoming and a tough opponent, this was a big test, but Raducanu impressively succeeded by taking a 6-4 6-4 win.
Center Court was only half full when Raducanu took her first steps as the spectators took a break after Novak Djokovic’s win, but she was greeted enthusiastically by those left behind.
While the 19-year-old gave a positive assessment of her fitness and mentality at her press conference on Saturday, the stresses of a match, especially such a high-profile one, are inevitably different from training.
But there were no early grounds for alarm, as Raducanu went on serves and groundstrokes, missing two breakpoints in the opening game, then saved three on her own serve as the first two games lasted a grueling 17 minutes.
Van Uytvanck certainly wasn’t the friendliest draw Raducanu could have had, as the 46th Belgian to win a grass court title – albeit at the second tier – in Italy last weekend, upset defending champion Garbine Muguruza en route to the fourth round in 2018.
Raducanu had only played seven games before retiring at Nottingham, so all that could be asked of her was to negotiate this hurdle in any way she could.
A few effervescent backhands, coupled with a poor volley and a double foul by Van Uytvanck, gave Raducanu the first break in the seventh game.
She promptly dropped the serve to love, but then broke again and dug in at just the right time to save two more break points and take the first set.
There were glimpses of the player sweeping it all for her in New York, but Raducanu has found, like countless others before her, that being the hunted is a very different proposition to being the fighter.
She missed six break points in the opening game of the second set and it looked like that could cost her as Van Uytvanck played two of the best points of the game to break the 3-1.
However, Raducanu came back and broke back to love, and another ill-timed double foul by Van Uytvanck at the break point at 4-4 gave the teenager a chance to serve for the game.
Raducanu proved she was an excellent frontrunner in Flushing Meadows and a deftly placed volley on her second match point made the British number one jump for joy.