Remember the names as Miyazaki and Kartal claim Wimbledon career bests

There is no grander stage in tennis than Wimbledon’s Centre Court. It is home to the biggest stars and often the biggest battles, with the odd upset sometimes thrown in too.

But take the short walk down to SW19’s myriad other courts and there is no shortage of fairytales.

Emma Raducanu was the headline Brit on the opening day of the 2024 Championships and duly dominated the column inches.

But while the world famous 21-year-old was getting past Mexican Renata Zarazua on Centre, two of her compatriots were writing their own stories, while flying under the radar.

It is easy to forget that simply reaching the main draw is a career highlight for most players, but Lily Miyazaki and Sonay Kartal went one further and secured the best wins of their career to send three British women through to the second round.

The pair may not attract the same fanfare as Raducanu – before yesterday they could likely have slipped around the All England Club untroubled – but their victories are welcome reminders that there are plenty of stories unfolding throughout SW19.

Court 15’s smattering of seats may not have the amphitheatrical qualities of Centre, but Kartal could have been playing anywhere on Monday, even at home in Brighton.

It is unlikely, however, that her home courts have ever contained the roars that came from the Wimbledon crowd as she powered past world No.29 Sorana Cirstea 6-0 in the third set to seal a stunning comeback victory, the finest of her career to date.

“I’m super stoked with that one,” she said. “I think the last two years, having fallen short, I felt good this year coming through qualifying.

“It really helped with my performance; it gave me extra confidence having played the matches not that long ago at all.

“I think getting a first win at any Slam, and to have it at Wimbledon makes it extra special. To have the people around me that I’ve spent my whole life since I was six playing with, they were here to experience that with me, I think that made it extra special.”

Kartal grew up playing against Raducanu but has been forced to do the early part of her career the hard way.

Health problems have blighted her progress this year, meaning the Wimbledon wildcard that she was given the last two years did not arrive for 2024, meaning she instead was forced to run the gauntlet of qualifying.

While those in the top 100 could spend last week training their focus on their opening match, Kartal was slugging it out in the heat through three cut-throat rounds in nearby Roehampton.

But after successfully navigating all three hurdles, the winning momentum was just what she needed to power past her more illustrious opponent.

“I think that definitely played a big part,” said Kartal, who is on the LTA’s Pro Scholarship Programme presented by Lexus, the highest level of support for developing players. “Last two years I was a wildcard, so I hadn’t played matches so close to the first round.

“I felt really good going into this year. I finished only a couple days ago. That was still pretty fresh. I was practicing well still.

“This year I had a whole new load of confidence I didn’t have the previous years.”

Qualifying is not always so kind, just ask Miyazaki.

The 28-year-old Londoner, who moved to the UK from Japan aged 10 and relinquished her Japanese citizenship two years ago to compete under the British flag, has spent most of her career fighting to break into the top 100.

She arrived at Wimbledon on Monday as a wildcard with just one career win at a Slam under her belt, at last year’s US Open, with her Slam hopes ending in the first round of qualifying in both Australia and Roland Garros earlier this year.

Her wildcard meant she could avoid those pitfalls in SW19, and she took full advantage, defying the 75-place gap in the rankings to beat Tamara Korpatsch 6-2 6-1.

Within an hour, Miyazaki had doubled her annual earnings – taking home a minimum £93,000 – a figure that will rise should she shock 14th seed Daria Kasatkina in the next round with the home crowd behind her.

“The financial side is massive for me and hopefully I can use that to keep building my ranking,” she said.

“It helps with the travel and my training but to be honest I wasn’t really thinking about that when I was playing.

“I just really wanted to go out there and put in a good performance and keep improving my level.”

For the latest action on the British summer grass court season, check out the LTA website

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