Emma Raducanu’s ‘controversial’ general election comments were not what they seemed

Kevin Palmer
Emma Raducanu during a practice session at Wimbledon in 2024
Emma Raducanu looks on during a practice session at Wimbledon in 2024

Emma Raducanu has been hammered for suggesting she didn’t know the British General Election was taking place on Thursday, but this is one of those Wimbledon stories that can be dismissed.

Wimbledon press conferences often include a collection of entertainment and lifestyle reporters mixed in with seasoned tennis writers.

Some of the questions that come the way of the top players can come with an agenda and Raducanu was wise to sidestep a political question when she was asked whether she would be voting at the general election.

“No,” she said. “I think I’ll have a lie-in, then I’ll come to practice. I didn’t even know it was tomorrow, to be honest. Thanks for letting me know.”

That response has sparked something of a backlash against the 21-year-old, but she was clearly trying to avoid getting into a discussion on a topic that she is not expected to comment on.

Raducanu has enough experience in the media to know that she could be dragged into a storm if she gets involved in topics away from tennis, so this was her attempt to avoid any controversy.

She clearly did know a general election was taking place and her comment was tongue-in-cheek, with her impressive performances on court at Wimbledon a much more significant story.

The 21-year-old is through to the third round at a grand slam for the first time since her dazzling triumph in New York and brushed aside world number 33 Elise Mertens on Wednesday.

Now Raducanu finds herself up against one of her vanquished foes from that run, with the Kent player having beaten Sakkari in the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows.

“Circumstances are different,” said Raducanu. “In a third round compared to a semi-final. At the time the dynamics were also different. I was an unknown player pretty much.

“I’m expecting a really tough match. She’s top 10. It’s going to be a really difficult one.

“Again, it’s going to be one where I’m the complete underdog and I can just enjoy playing in (front of) my home crowd, home slam, just keep having fun and trying to stay an extra day.”

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Parallels are already being drawn with New York in some quarters, and that will only increase if she can beat Sakkari, but Raducanu is having none of it.

“I forgot which press conference, but I saw Rafa (Nadal) come in, the journalists were asking, ‘What if, what if’,” she said. “What ifs don’t exist.

“I think you just have to take every moment as it comes and deal with the circumstances because it’s very easy to get caught up in parallels, things that have happened in the past. But no situation is the same. Dynamics are always changing.

“I think, for me, I’m just trying to stay focused on what I can do today, take care of every minute in my day, letting the rest flow.”

Asked about the opportunity of playing Raducanu, possibly on Centre Court, ninth seed Sakkari bristled.

“I think the opportunity is for both,” said the Greek. “She’s also playing a top-10 player. Let’s not forget that.

“She’s an unbelievable player. She’s very talented. She’s very promising. Even after winning a grand slam, she’s still very young. Obviously, she’s going to be the favourite because she’ll be playing at home. If anything, that’s normal.

“But I’m excited. It’s another challenge. That’s why we play tennis. It’s going to be pretty exciting. I’m pumped.”

Sakkari has never played on Centre Court before, but she said: “I don’t feel like it’s something new for me. I’ve been a top-10 player for the last three years or even more, so I’ve played in big courts. It’s not like I’m just coming into this and it’s my first time.”

Raducanu played with a notable freedom against Mertens, mixing her powerful groundstrokes with dashes to the net and drop shots.

That joie de vivre has been missing for much of the last three years but Raducanu arrived at Wimbledon with a good number of match wins behind her and looks happy and confident.

She said: “I don’t think it’s something that clicks overnight and all of a sudden you have the freedom. I think it’s a process that you have to give and take. Sometimes you feel like you’re taking a few steps forward, and then you take a step back.

“I think certain matches this year I’ve played with a lot more freedom, others I’ve been more tentative, more passive. I think, as long as I’m trending in the right trajectory, then I’m happy and moving forwards.”

Sakkari, 28, has spent her whole career trying to do what Raducanu managed in her first couple of months on tour.

She said of their New York meeting: “It’s not like it’s not the best memories because I still had a good run. Obviously it was meant to be, I think, that week. It was written in the stars for her, and she took that opportunity.”

Also in action on Friday will be Raducanu’s former junior rival Sonay Kartal, who is through to the third round of a grand slam for the first time and will play second seed Coco Gauff.

It is a formidable challenge for 22-year-old Kartal, who only beat a top-100 player for the first time in qualifying last week, but she is high on confidence after winning five matches in a row.

“We’ll look at ways that my game style can interrupt her game style a little bit,” she said.

“I’m not typical, I would say. I like to play with a bit more variation and things like that. It will just be about finding ways that work for me, try and disrupt her. We’ll see what I can do.”