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Emma Raducanu joins Nottingham backlash: ‘I feel like I beat her and the umpire’

June 11th, 2024

Emma Raducanu beat Ena Shibahara in straight sets on her return to action for the first time since April at the Nottingham Open – Getty Images/Paul Bonser

Emma Raducanu said she felt like she was playing “two versus one on court” by having to beat not only her opponent “but the umpire as well” as she clinched her first victory on British soil in 713 days.

Raducanu became the second British player in two days to complain about the standard of umpiring at the WTA event in Nottingham after Harriet Dart’s outburst on Monday, when she described the umpiring during her first round defeat by British No 1 Katie Boulter as “appalling”.

At one stage Dart even bet the chair umpire £50,000 that a ball she had called in was actually out, and Raducanu said on Tuesday that “quite a few players” were talking about the standard of line-calling at an event which does not have Hawk-Eye.

In the end, Raducanu came through her first-round clash against Japanese-American qualifier Ena Shibahara safely enough, winning 6-1, 6-4 and describing herself afterwards as “very pleased” with both her tennis and her fitness, having spent eight months on the sidelines last year following surgery to both wrists and an ankle that forced her to miss the entire 2023 grasscourt swing including Nottingham and Wimbledon.

It was also her first competitive match in seven weeks, having chosen to skip the French Open to allow herself more time to transition to grass.

Emma Raducanu – Emma Raducanu joins Nottingham backlash: 'I feel like I beat her and the umpire'Emma Raducanu – Emma Raducanu joins Nottingham backlash: 'I feel like I beat her and the umpire'

Raducanu is currently ranked 209th in the world – Getty Images/Nathan Stirk

The 2021 US Open champion, who received a rapturous welcome from the packed crowd on Centre Court, certainly had too much for doubles specialist Shibahara. Deploying what looked like a slightly remodelled service action, cutting the loop out of it so that her racket came up in front of her before the drop, Raducanu moved well throughout and did not seem to be holding back with her groundstrokes, hitting with power and accuracy.

Shibahara tried to come into the net but frequently found it too hot to handle when she did, with Raducanu arrowing balls at her feet or down the flanks.

Raducanu fumes over lines calls

Raducanu’s bigger issue appeared to be with the umpires. Like Dart on Monday, she was exasperated by some of the line-calling, particularly a volley from Shibahara at 1-1 in the first set that landed somewhere near the tram line and which was called in. Raducanu remonstrated with chair umpire Ana Carvalho. “She literally reacted like it was out,” she said of her opponent. “No way.”

Having taken the first set 6-1, Raducanu breezed into a 5-1 lead in the second and looked as if she would wrap things up in less than an hour. However, the 21-year-old made heavy weather of closing things out. Again, Raducanu felt as if she got unlucky with a line call, particularly when serving at 5-3.

“I mean, I feel like I was playing two vs one on court, it was insane,” she said later, smiling, when asked later how many challenges she would have used had HawkEye been available. “I would have probably used at least four [today]! I think a lot of the time they go both ways. Today I felt they were all against me. But it just makes me feel better that I managed to beat her and the umpire as well.

“It’s not just me, yesterday Harriet was saying the same thing. At this tournament quite a few players say it.

She added: “Maybe it was just trying to make the match more competitive? It was 6-1 and 5-1 and all of a sudden, first point serving at 5-3, it’s a really bad line call. It’s something I had to deal with and overcome. I am very pleased with the attitude I came out with from the get-go and also having to deal with the adversity.”

Dart suggested on Monday that it was time for the WTA to introduce electronic line-calling “everywhere for everyone’s sake”. Human line judges will be replaced by an electronic calling system on a full-time basis on the ATP Tour from next year, although the WTA is not in the same financial position. But Raducanu, who eventually broke Shibahara to 30 to close out the second set 6-4, did not feel that was necessary.

“More and more tournaments are getting Hawk-Eye,” she noted. “I think there is a beauty in having all the linesemen and it [human line-calling] does add to the drama for the spectators. For us, it can be the most frustrating thing ever. But I’m not going to lie, I feel like this year Hawk-Eye has been a little bit off. I don’t know why.

“It doesn’t really make a difference at the end of the day. The majority of points are not won on challenges.”

Raducanu, who will play Ukraine’s Daria Snigur in the round of 16, said she was just delighted to have got her grass court swing off to a winning start.

Having reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2021 before retiring hurt, she knows she is a threat on the surface if she can stay fit, particularly with a vocal crowd behind her. “An element of me forgot what it was like to play at home and have that support behind and it is amazing, it’s a great feeling,” she concluded.


Raducanu makes successful return to grass after two years: As it happened


03:51 PM BST

Another few words from Emma Raducanu

It’s been so long since I last really played in the UK. I played in France earlier this year. Against the French it was very loud but the other way. So to come here and feel like everyone is really behind me is really nice.

I’m cherishing every moment of that too.


03:49 PM BST

Confident return

Late wobble aside, Raducanu will be happy with that. Moved well, and didn’t look to be holding anything back in terms of her groundstrokes. Got a nice reception from the crowd. Great catch from one fan after the match when Raducanu was asked to hit some signed balls into the crowd and underhit one. It was caught brilliantly by a man leaning over the railings. Get that man out to the West Indies. England could do with him.


03:34 PM BST

A brief word from Emma Raducanu

It’s been quite a few weeks since I last played a competitive match.I didn’t know how it was going to go.

I think my intentions were great from the start of the match. I think I played a really good match. At the end I think inevitably if you’re 6-1, 5-1 up I figured something could probably go wrong. I was trying to not let it get to my head. Just preparing and fighting for each point.

All credit to Ena. She’s making it tricky on the grass courts with the serve and volley.

I’m very pleased with how I dealt with the circumstances today.


03:31 PM BST

Raducanu 6-1, 6-4 Shibahara*

Stunning crosscourt return from Raducanu catches Shibahara out at the net but her opponent fores back with a dipping forehand to make it 30-15.

Shibahara smiles after lamping a forehand far too long and then Raducanu’s superb, deep return, right on the baseline, gives her match point.

And she takes it after a short rally when Shibahara smacks a forehand drive into the net.

Game set and match Raducanu in her first tour match on grass for 713 days.

Raducanu making heavy weather of closing this out and the crowd are just getting a bit anxious. Fans behind me muttering about the line judges, who have just been switched at the end of their allotted time. “Glad that one’s gone. He was useless”.


03:26 PM BST

Raducanu 6-1, 5-4 Shibahara* (*next server)

Raducanu bellows ‘Come on!’ she nails a forehand winner to make it 15-all after that two-game mini-wobble. But then she hooks a backhand inches wide and fires a backhand too long. 15-40.

She defends the first break point with a kicking second serve that Shibahara pans into the rigging, and the next, again on second serve, when Shibahara runs around a forehand but pumps it too long. Deuce.

Shibahara claws her way to advantage with a one-two combo of crosscourt followed by backhand winner fired up the line.

And she breaks again by pushing Raducanu uncomfortably wide in her deuce court, giving her no angle to get her shot over the net.


03:18 PM BST

Raducanu* 6-1, 5-3 Shibahara (*next server)

Shibahara finds a new lease of life with a gorgeous drop shot that sets up a volley winner followed by a wonderful half-volley up the line to move to 40-15. She closes out the hold with a wide serve that Raducanu cannot get over.


03:17 PM BST

Raducanu 6-1, 5-2 Shibahara* (*next server)

Shibahara rallies somewhat with a fine drop shot and then a backhand up the line that Raducanu fails to return to take a 15-40 lead.

And she breaks back when Raducanu hits a gunslinger’s forehand up the line wide.

Take that second grissino off the menu.

Shibahara pumps her fistShibahara pumps her fist

Shibahara breaks back – Nathan Stirk/Getty Images for LTA


03:13 PM BST

Raducanu* 6-1, 5-1 Shibahara (*next server)

The first two serve-volleys backfire as Shibahara nets her second shots off the opening two points and then chips a backhand far too long off a swerving Raducanu drop shot. Love-40.

Raducanu breaks to love when she forces Shibahara wide on her forehand after four-stroke rally and Shibahara cannot clear the net with her crosscourt attempt.

Raducanu will serve for the match. Two breadsticks on the menu. Double grissini.


03:09 PM BST

Raducanu 6-1, 4-1 Shibahara* (*next server)

Poise and power from Raducanu to move to 40-love until she ruins her chance of a second successive perfect service game with a forehand drive that flies too long. It barely detains her 15 seconds as she dispatches the next point off her second serve with a withering backhand winner from the centre to the corner of her opponent’s deuce court, far too forceful and fast for Shibahara who was tracking back to the middle.


03:05 PM BST

Raducanu* 6-1, 3-1 Shibahara (*next server)

Shibahara resorts to doubles tactics and decides to go to the net all the time now and it allows her to take a 30-love lead with two serve-volley winners. Then Raducanu hooks her return wide with Shibahara already on the charge and the latter holds to love with a blistering ace down the T. Bravo, Ena. Not many Enas around these days.


03:03 PM BST

Raducanu 6-1, 3-0 Shibahara* (*next server)

One crumb of comfort for Shibahara when she goes to the net off her deep backhand to nail a smash but Raducanu  wraps up the next four points without any fuss to race to 3-0 up. Even when she does give Shibahara something to hit, she doesn’t have the power or precision to hurt her. When she tries to retaliate by pushing Raducanu deep with whipped forehands, most have drifted out.


03:00 PM BST

Raducanu* 6-1, 2-0 Shibahara (*next server)

Raducanu monsters Shibahara’s second serve, lamping a forehand to the baseline, giving Shibahara nothing to swing at because she would need Mr Tickle’s arms to get any leverage by her feet.

Shibahara, on the charge, is passed at the net again and that ties up Raducanu’s fourth break of the match in five Shibahara service games.

Raducanu's backhandRaducanu's backhand

Raducanu’s return is too hot for Shibahara – Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers


02:56 PM BST

Raducanu 6-1, 1-0 Shibahara* (*next server)

Shibahara may have risen 400 places in the singles rankings this year but she is being outclasses here. They are both ranked in the 200s but Raducanu’s ceiling is so much higher it;s turning into a cakewalk. So many unforced errors from Shibahara.

Raducanu holds her serve to love with a combination of aces and unreturnable serves. It seems routine.


02:52 PM BST

Raducanu* 6-1 Shibahara (*next server)

Now it’s Shibahara’s turn to roll her eyes at a late out call that gives Raducanu a 15-30 lead when the California born Shibahara’s backhand crosscourt sails over the line.

A backhand that floats too long gives Raducany two break points and she uses the second to wrap up the set when Shibahara, who has her right shoulder heavily strapped, pans a backhand into the net two-thirds of the way up.

Raducanu has successfully pushed her deeper and deeper, painting the lines.


02:48 PM BST

Raducanu 5-1 Shibahara* (*next server)

Raducanu has one successful lob to savour in this match but her second attempt drifts too long to make it love-15. That insignificant set-back is eliminated by an ace down the centre line and Shibahara’s inability to return a pair of wide serves, allowing her to race to 40-15.

Raducanu holds to 15 when Shibahara chips a backhand return into the net. Shibahara managed only one legit stroke in play in that game.

Raducanu really not enjoying some of these line calls. No Hawkeye of course. She should talk to Harriet Dart.


02:42 PM BST

Raducanu* 4-1 Shibahara (*next server)

Raducanu’s backhand return wasn’t working until Shibahara once again comes to the net and is beaten by one that diddles her on height and bounce. Then Shibahara flays a backhand drive too long to make it 30-all and Raducanu smells blood.

But she nets her backhand return off Shibahara’s second serve and the Japanese American has game point. Raducanu takes the game to the match’s first deuce with a fierce backhand drive to the far corner of Shibahara’s ad court and follows that with a brutal return of a second serve. Advantage Raducanu.

And she breaks again with a superb double-fisted winner up the line.

Raducanu pumps her fistRaducanu pumps her fist

Raducanu seals double break – David Davies/PA Wire


02:37 PM BST

Raducanu 3-1 Shibahara* (*next server)

Raducanu is having problems with her ball toss in the breeze and with some dingbat’s mobile phone going off. Once again she questions a line call on her serve but gets over it to win the point on her second serve with a punishing forehand to make it 30-15.

One step forward, one step back when she hooks a backhand into the net after the match’s longest rally to tie it at 30-all but she takes the next two points by virtue of Shibahara overcooking her forehand.


02:33 PM BST

Raducanu* 2-1 Shibahara (*next server)

Shibahara’s serve and volley approach is probably wise but her execution is not reliable enough yet. Raducanu questions a very tight line call at 30-all that gives the point to Shibahara but the umpire is adamant that her call is correct, that it was called out by the line judge but she saw it clip the line.

Shibahara wins her first game of the match when Raducanu frames a backhand and spoons it betwixt the tramlines.

Raducanu's backhandRaducanu's backhand

Raducanu moves two games ahead – David Davies/PA Wire


02:29 PM BST

Raducanu 2-0 Shibahara* (*next server)

Shibahara crunches a top-spin forehand winner of Raducanu’s second serve to take a love-15 lead but then swipes her return into the net to tie it up at 15-all. Her service is not firing yet though and another weak second serve puts her 15-30 behind, and Shibahara will have two break points after Raducanu sweeps a forehand two long.

Raducanu defends the first by tying Sheibahara up around her feet at the baseline. Having defended the first, she saves the second with a chip that Shibahra clubs into the net and then goes on to seal the hold with her first ace.

Watched Raducanu warm up here and the announcer gave her a massive build-up. “We all know the story but it loses nothing in the repeating,” he says before proceeding to reel off Raducanu’s career history, starting here in Nottingham in 2021 and including her US Open victory later that summer “without dropping a set, the first woman to do so since Serena Williams” etc etc You forget sometimes both how extraordinary that achievement was, but also how much it must weigh her down. Huge pressure every time she plays.


02:23 PM BST

Raducanu* 1-0 Shibahara (*next server)

Shibahara begins by winning the first point with a serve that Raducanu thinks is out but without a challenge system she has no way of proving it. She fires bike with a backhand winner up the line and her opponent nets a volley when she approaches to hit Raducanu’s weak return to make it 15-30.

Shibahara’s serve and volley approach wins her the next point but Raducanu has a break point after a double fault and breaks her opponent’s serve at the first opportunity with a lovely lob.


02:18 PM BST

The players have knocked up

Raducanu won the toss and decided to receive.


02:14 PM BST

It’s been almost two years since Raducanu last played on grass

And here she comes, introduced as ‘Britain’s history maker’. Both players understandably in long sleeves as they knock up. Shibahara goes further in the Baltic East Midlands and is wearing leggings.


02:12 PM BST

It really is taters

The crowd is wearing a variety of anoraks, puffa jackets, parkas and hats.

Out come Raducanu and Shibahara, the latter first.


02:07 PM BST

Dan Evans wraps up victory

6-3, 4-6, 6-3. He notes how cold it is! And thanks the supporters for braving the autumnal temperatures of June.


01:53 PM BST

Stricker has returned

And the match has resumed at 3-3.


01:47 PM BST

Dominic Stricker has been injured at Nottingham

On comes the trainer for treatment to his right thigh after he seemed to slip and fall heavily. He has been given a medical time out and is leaving the court for now.


01:40 PM BST

The third set in Evans vs Stricker

Has gone with serve so far – it currently stands at 2-3 with Stricker serving.

Looks quite breezy in Nottingham. Coats are on in the crowd and, for some patrons, hoods are up.


01:01 PM BST

While she waits, Raducanu goes off for a hit

RaducanuRaducanu

Raducanu heads to the practice court – David Davies/PA Wire


01:00 PM BST

Hold your horses…

First on Centre Court they will finish the men’s match that started last night between Dan Evans and Dominic Stricker which is tied at one set each.

So the wait for Raducanu vs Shibahara goes on.


12:48 PM BST

Daria Snigur wins in emphatic style

And is rapturously applauded on concluding her 6-3, 6-3 victory. Snigur, who beat the No 2 seed last year here as well, will play the winner of Raducanu vs Shibahara.


12:45 PM BST

Raducanu’s is the second match on centre court

Following the opener between compatriots Marta Kostyuk and Daria Snigur of Ukraine. Kostyuk, the No2 seed, is one set and 5-2 down.


10:06 AM BST

Preview: Back on her own two feet

Hello. Rare indeed are the opportunities to cover a match between the world No 209 and and No 274, but where Emma Raducanu, the 2022 US Open champion, is concerned, normal rules do not apply. Raducanu has not played competitively since April, preferring to skip Roland Garros to ensure her wrists, each of which she had surgery on last year, are Pinball Wizard-like strong and supple to withstand the heavier tennis balls of the summer grass-court swing. She started well in her last tournament, the Stuttgart Open, beating the veteran 2018 Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber in the first round and Linda Noskova in the next. There was no disgrace, either, in her elimination by Iga Swiatek, having taken the world No1 to a tie-break in the first set and, given where she was last year, namely needing a mobility scooter to get around, she is eager to put her progress in 2024 in perspective.

“It was pretty surreal [last year] because obviously I couldn’t be on crutches because I’d had two wrist surgeries,” she said. “So I had a cast on one hand – I’d timed it so I didn’t have two casts at the same time, obviously – a splint on the other and my ankle was also pretty much immobilised, in a splint and stitches.

“So I would just scooter around with one knee. As someone who is so active it’s difficult to just shut your body down. I think it’s very easy for me to lose sight of where I was exactly a year ago because it is pretty much a year ago to this day, this month.

“You get so caught up in your own world that you want more and more and more. But a year ago I was on a scooter scooting around and I didn’t know – there was an element of doubt. To be healthy and to be here, I need to cherish it. So thanks for reminding me to do that. Body-wise, physical-wise, I feel really healthy. I feel really strong. I’ve done amazing work with my trainer over the last few months, since surgery.

“I’m in a really fit place. I think my wrists are actually in a better position than they ever were.So there’s zero doubt or apprehension whether I’m hitting the ball or designing my schedule.”

Her opponent, the Japanese American Japan’s Ena Shibahara, is a 26-year-old right-handed doubles specialist who had to win two qualifying rounds to get to this stage. Having won the mixed doubles at the French Open in 2022 with Wesley Koolhof, Shibahara and Shuko Aoyama were beaten finalists at the 2023 Australian Open and she made the third round with new partners in the women’s doubles at both the Australian and French Open this year. In February, however, she did win her maiden singles championship on the ITF Circuit, beating Iva Jovic to the W35 title in Texas to break into the top 400 in singles for the first time in her career. 

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