Emma Raducanu replaced by wheelchair tennis greats as Vodafone’s face of Wimbledon

Shahida Jacobs
Emma Raducanu in action

Emma Raducanu’s withdrawal from Wimbledon has prompted Vodafone to drop her as their face of the 2023 grass-court Grand Slam and wheelchair doubles greats Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid will now front their billboards.

British No 1 Raducanu signed a £3 million deal with the British telecommunications giant on the back of her fairytale success at the 2021 US Open and she was once again set to headline the company’s campaign for Wimbledon this year.

However, the 20-year-old announced at the beginning of May that she would miss the French Open as well as the entire grass-court season due to operations on both her wrists and ankles.

Her absence from Wimbledon initially left one of her main sponsors, Vodafone, in a difficult situation, but they decided to turn to leading wheelchair duo Hewett and Reid, as well as rising British star Jack Draper.

The trio will now be on the company’s Wimbledon billboards over the next month and “the move is part of a plan to become more inclusive and progressive”.

A Vodafone spokesperson told The Mail on Sunday: “When Emma pulled out, we didn’t know what to do. But it led to a perfect opportunity to use Alfie and Gordon, who were already part of the Vodafone family.

“To have them as our main ambassadors feels as if we have managed to make some good out of a bad situation.”

Hewett has won seven Grand Slam singles titles while Reid is a two-time singles champion, but as a pair they have won an astonishing 16 doubles titles.

Draper, meanwhile, made his breakthrough last year and rose to a career-high No 38 in the ATP Rankings at the start of 2023 with many believing he will be the face of British men’s tennis for years to come.

Meanwhile, Raducanu – who will still “play a key role” in the Vodafone campaign along with Hewett, Reid and Draper – has been backed by former Wimbledon champion Martion Bartoli to come back stronger.

Besides her injury woes, Raducanu also struggled with form since winning the US Open as she slumped from a career-high No 10 in the WTA Rankings to outside the top 100.

“She may almost have to start all over again but I’m sure she can do it, I’m sure she’s ready for that. But she has to build a team around her that believes in what she’s doing and believes in getting her back into the top 10,” Bartoli told Sky Sports.

“It takes time to build the body and it takes time to get to your fitness level at the level required after being on the sidelines for a few months, so you can’t just rush the process.”

The Frenchwoman added: “She has so many more years ahead of her and if she can get her body ready, I don’t think there is a lack of focus. Of course there are endorsements but Maria Sharapova had a lot of endorsements but she was extremely focused throughout her career and Serena Williams was the same.

“Players can have a lot of endorsements, but they’re able to deal that, so that’s not the issue for Emma. She didn’t have the time to get herself mentally and physically ready to deal with everything that’s been thrown at her since she won that Grand Slam, but it doesn’t mean she won’t be ready. It just requires slightly more time.

“Give her time and she will be fine.”

READ MORE: Emma Raducanu set for fresh rankings blow amid uncertainty over her future