Sun sets on Emma Raducanu’s Wimbledon campaign

Emma Raducanu was stunned by qualifier Lulu Sun as her encouraging Wimbledon run came to a disappointing end in the fourth round.

The 21-year-old had inspired hopes of more US Open-style heroics by coming through her opening three matches without dropping a set.

But she looked nervous against powerful New Zealander Sun, the first qualifier to make the women’s singles quarter-finals here in 14 years, and, despite battling to force a deciding set, slumped to a 6-2 5-7 6-2 defeat.

Left-hander Sun, who had never won a grand slam main-draw match before this week and is now on a seven-match winning streak, racked up 52 winners compared with just 19 from Raducanu and will now face Donna Vekic for a place in the semi-finals.

It has not been a comfortable 24 hours for Raducanu, with the positive vibes from her three impressive wins given a hammering by her decision to deny Andy Murray a Wimbledon swansong by pulling out of their mixed doubles opener citing a stiff wrist.

She found herself the subject of unwanted headlines, with the social media contribution of Judy Murray – albeit subsequently claimed not to be a criticism of Raducanu – adding fuel to the fire.

The strapping on her right wrist that had been present in practice on Saturday was nowhere to be seen, and Raducanu looked happy and relaxed hitting with fellow British player Liam Broady ahead of the match.

Emma Raducanu slipped over early in the third set
Emma Raducanu slipped over early in the third set (John Walton/PA)

But, from the start of the contest on Centre Court, the former US Open champion, who knows all too well what qualifiers can achieve, seemed anything but comfortable.

Having swung freely through her last two matches against much-higher-ranked opponents, here all the pressure was on Raducanu, and it showed.

Her serve, which has been a key strength all tournament, was off and her groundstrokes lacked their usual fizz.

Sun, on the other hand, looked like playing on Centre Court was something she had been doing all her life, the 23-year-old crunching the ball and breaking the Raducanu serve – which the Briton had not dropped since the first round – twice to go 3-0 up.

Lulu Sun clenches her fist
Lulu Sun clenches her fist (John Walton/PA)

Like Raducanu, Sun comes from a cosmopolitan background, with a Chinese mother and Croatian father – as well as a British-German stepfather – while she recently switched back to representing New Zealand having previously played under the flag of Switzerland, where she grew up.

Raducanu retrieved one of the breaks but her comeback was short-lived as Sun, who defeated eighth seed Zheng Qinwen in round one, powered her way to another break and then the set.

Raducanu was under pressure again at the start of the second but this time managed to hold on to her serve, with Sun, ranked 123, putting a simple forehand volley long on break point at 1-1.

Raducanu then had two break points in the next game but was unable to change the momentum, missing two backhand returns off second serves.

She hung on again in the seventh game but at least produced some of her best tennis to save two more break points.

Raducanu’s efforts in keeping her nose in front on serve were rewarded at 5-6 when Sun tightened up a little, missing an overhead and then going long on the second set point.

However, the mood changed in the opening game of the third set when Raducanu slipped while hitting a forehand, sitting on the ground shaking her head before calling the trainer, who worked on her left hip, leg and back, which she had been periodically holding during the second set.

Raducanu underwent surgery on her left ankle last year, as well as both wrists, after slipping at a tournament in Auckland.

She restarted in confident fashion with an ace but looked a little uncertain in her movement and dropped serve. The crowd tried to inspire Raducanu into another fightback but a double fault cost her a second break at 2-4 and Sun clinched a deserved victory.

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