Lulu Sun on the game plan that got her to Wimbledon Quarters

Publish Date
Tuesday, 9 July 2024, 3:17PM

By Cameron McMillan

Lulu Sun may be the unknown qualifier heading into the Wimbledon quarter-finals tomorrow but she’s also needing to do some research on her next opponent as the world number 123 looks to continue her remarkable run and make the semifinals.

After dispatching hometown favourite Emma Raducanu on Centre Court yesterday morning, Sun next faces world number 37 Donna Vekic of Croatia - who she’ll spend her day off studying.

Vekic, a four-time winner on the WTA Tour, is also playing in the final eight for the first time at Wimbledon, having also reached the quarter-final stage at the Australian Open and the French Open.

“Vekic is an experienced player and has been on tour for a long while and I’m just going to prepare my best,” Sun said after her three sets win over Raducanu.

“Obviously tomorrow we have a day off so I’m going to try and recover my best. She’s a good baseliner and fights really well... I haven’t watched a ton of matches of her but I’ve watched some. So I’ll probably do that tomorrow.”

Sun and Vekic will square off on Court 1 from 2am NZT.

Making a first appearance on Centre Court against a former grand slam champion in front of a home crowd would rattle most players, but yesterday Sun played the calm aggressor as she became the first New Zealander through to a grand slam quarter-final in 35 years.

Playing in the second week for the first time at a grand slam and making her maiden appearance on the biggest stage, the 23-year-old Kiwi qualifier was cool and composed throughout her 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 victory over Raducanu.

It was a long encounter, but after her qualifying run and now four main-draw wins, Sun probably knows more about the bounce off the Wimbledon grass than the tournament curators.

The match almost lasted three hours, including a lengthy medical break in the third set when Raducanu went down with an injured knee. Sun seemed to soak up the occasion and continued to send powerful serves and forehands down the other end, rarely making a mistake in the key moments.

One reporter compared Sun to Zeus hurling thunderbolts.

“It was an incredible match. A very long match... I’m super-happy with the performance,” Sun said in a press conference.

“I think at the end we were both kind of, energy-wise... struggling with the long match but... the level was great from both of us. I [am] kind of tired so can’t really put it into words.”

She is the first qualifier in 14 years to reach the quarter-final stage in the women’s draw at Wimbledon, the last being Estonian Kaia Kanepi in 2010. Sun came into the tournament as the world No 123 and should now crack the top 60.

The last New Zealander to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon was Chris Lewis in 1983, when he went on to make the final, losing to American great John McEnroe. The only Kiwi to win the event is Anthony Wilding, a four-time champion in the pre-Open era with titles in 1910, 1911, 1912 and 1913, back when the defending champion had the advantage of automatically playing in the final the following year. The last time a New Zealander reached a grand slam quarter-final was at the 1989 Australian Open, when Belinda Cordwell got as far as the semifinals.

Sun played aggressively and calmly throughout the three sets with 52 winners to 19, although that brought 44 unforced errors in her risk-or-reward approach. She said it was the best way to get on top of the 2021 US Open winner.

“If you give Emma the time, she’s going to take advantage of it and take the opportunity, which she did. Staying aggressive was definitely a key point to the match. It worked well because getting her to move and getting her on the defence was what I wanted,” Sun added.

Sun was asked what her run will mean to the fans back in New Zealand – and at first she was lost for words.

“To reach the quarter-finals is a major step. It brings inspiration to all the players in New Zealand to look up to, not just myself but to also look farther,” she said.

The Te Anau-born Sun changed allegiances from Switzerland earlier in the year and said it was a hard decision.

“It was difficult. I grew up in New Zealand, I was born there, my family is still there and I grew up in Switzerland as well. Both countries are dear to me. It wasn’t an easy decision. Even now I’m grateful for everything Swiss Tennis has done in my junior career. At the same time, grateful to Tennis New Zealand for their support so far.”

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission

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