Dubai: Teenager Emma Raducanu finally ended Britain’s 44-year wait for a women’s Grand Slam singles tennis champion when she won the US Open by beating fellow teen Leylah Fernandez.
It was such a remarkable accomplishment that some are calling it the greatest sporting achievement the country has ever witnessed. For many England beating West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final is the pinnacle, but without a shadow of a doubt hers is a moment that will live long in the memory.
But, just who is Raducanu? Where did she come from? How did she make it this far? And what does her future look like?
The Gulf News experts get in to the nitty gritty of Britain’s latest hero…
The latest tennis star who loves motorsport!
Imran Malik, Assistant Editor
Born: November 13, 2002
Height: 5 ft 9 in
Turned pro: Turned pro
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Career titles: 1 (US Open, 2021)
Ranking: World No. 23
She came into the US Open ranked 150th in the world but now 18-year-old Emma Raducanu finds herself sitting pretty at number 23, £1.8 million richer and also the new British number one. Understandably, she is still on cloud nine having won her maiden Grand Slam title, and the first British woman since 1977 to win a major. The last was Virginia Wade when she won Wimbledon 44 years ago, but just who is Emma Raducanu?
Well, apart from being the toast of the country, she is many things – including a petrolhead! That’s right, she loves motorsport and used to do go-karting when she was just five years old starting out in a bus garage in Streatham before moving on to a proper track at eight and then a year later she did motocross. She has shared childhood photos on her Instagram account ridng a Kawasaki!
She still dabbles in both in her spare time not that she will have much of that anymore what with her meteoric rise to stardom.
She moved to London with her Romanian father and Chinese mother but was born in Toronto, Canada on November 13, 2002. She speaks Mandarin and loves visiting her grandmother in Bucharest.
Not many know that Raducanu went to the same school as world champion sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, so, if you want your kids to excel in sport, it might be an idea to send them to Newstead Wood School in Orpington!
She won UK national titles as an under-nine, under-12 and under-16, claimed her first ITF junior title at 13 and reached the quarter-finals of the girls competition at Wimbledon in 2018.
After her breakout success at Wimbledon, Pirelli welcomed Raducanu for a visit to the track during the British Grand Prix and she shared impressive footage of her ride in a McLaren 720s, describing the experience as 'a treat'. Raducanu counts F1 and motocross as some of her biggest passions.
It was just back in June when she made her WTA Tour main draw debut at the Nottingham Open but she lost in the first round against compatriot Harriet Dart. She followed that up by shining at Wimbledon as a wildcard and made it to the fourth round but her latest achievement surpasses everything by some way.
She is the first qualifier in the Open era to win a Slam
She is the youngest women’s Slam champion since Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004
She is the youngest Briton to win a Grand Slam title
She becomes the first woman to win the US Open without dropping a set since Serena Williams in 2014
Handle Emma Raducanu with care, please
By Gautam Bhattacharyya, Senior Associate Editor
It’s not easy to be in the shoes of Emma Raducanu. More than 24 hours after her fairytale triumph in the all-teen final of US Open, her win continues to perhaps echo louder than Daniil Medvedev, who was so clinical in cutting short Novak Djokovic’s dream of completing a calendar slam.
This is where we need to be careful – very, very careful with the 18-year-old with a game that belies her years. Barely two months earlier at the All England Club, Emma - the youngest Briton in the open era to enter the second week at Wimbledon - had to retire from her fourth-round encounter with Ajla Tomljanovic on No. 1 Court in July because of breathing difficulties.
Raducanu proves women’s tennis is in great hands
Playing in her first grand slam tournament, having made her debut on the main women’s Tour only the previous month, Raducanu admitted the following day: “The whole experience caught up with me.”
The turnaround had been exceptional – no matter her being on the so-called easier side of the draw – it takes a special talent to win your first slam without dropping a set. The question is: how does she handle the expectations from here onwards?
"I don’t feel any pressure," the champion said after the final, with a conviction that was as startling as her tennis. However, she didn’t have anything to lose at that point during the course of 10 wins on the trot (including the three qualifying rounds) – but the free-spirited girl will realise how the world has changed around her when she steps onto the court as tennis’ next big thing in the upcoming tournaments.
The examples of exceptional teenaged talents failing to cope up with the pressure in her sport is endless – more so in the times of social media. Ask Naomi Osaka. Like Naomi, her multi-cultural background (father being a Romanian and mother a Chinese) already threatens to make her a doubly exciting marketing proposition in the UK.
Talent and charisma
Mark Borkowski, the celebrated author and PR guru who has worked with the likes of Michael Jackson and Led Zeppelin, among others, reckoned that Raducanu has the talent and charisma to potentially become Britain’s first billion-dollar sport star.
Emma, meanwhile, joked that her first goal at the US Open had been to earn enough money to replace her lost Airpods. Well, with a $2.5 million prize purse in her kitty, she can afford a few more things of her choice too!
Move over Serena and Venus, Raducanu and the kids want to play
Matthew Smith, Sports Editor
For so long Serena Williams has held the torch for women’s tennis. For more than 20 years, she and sister Venus were the champions of the ladies game.
Many others came and went as the Williams girls prevailed. But - out of the two - Serena emerged as the ‘unbeatable’ as she romped to 23 Grand Slam singles titles — a record in the Open era.
She has chased and failed to match Margaret Court’s all-time 24 and it looks like she never will. At the age of 39, Serena’s career is coming to an end and we are seeing a massive shift to the youngsters.
Do not get me wrong, Ash Barty, Elina Svitolina, Simona Halep (hardly pensioners) and the like will certainly be in the mix for the next few seasons but the US Open and the Grand Slam events that preceded it this season have shown an open door to the likes of young pups Emma Raducanu (18), Coco Gauff (17), Leylah Fernandez (19) and Naomi Osaka (23).
Raducanu’s amazing run from the qualifiers to win the US Open crown at Flushing Meadows this past fortnight is the stuff off Hollywood. The 18-year-old’s defeated opponent Fernandez also enjoyed a dream journey. Coco and Osaka have brought a breath of fresh air over the past few seasons.
Osaka may have cracked the ceiling with her dramatic entrance on the scene against (who else?) Serena at the US Open in 2018 and has gone on to claim four Grand Slam titles. The 23-year-old ‘veteran’ really did open the door for the youngsters.
The quartet of Osaka, Raducanu, Fernandez and Gauff have a combined age less than that of the still-active Williams sisters.
It is time for the kids to take to the court and take the crown.
The future of women’s tennis has arrived
Shyam A. Krishna, Senior Associate Editor
Maria Sharapova has retired. So has Victoria Azarenka and Li Na. The Belgian duo of Justin Henin and Kim Clijsters is a distant memory. And one of the greatest women tennis players of all time, Serena Williams, is valiantly trying to still the match of time. But she’s past her imperious best.
So who do we have? Who’s the new torch-bearer of women’s tennis? Not too long ago, it was Naomi Osaka. The Japanese youngster had the game and the glamour to keep the turnstiles clicking at the stadiums. But mental health issues clouded her appearance in recent months. Uncertainty loomed in the absence of a champion performer.
Raducanu lives her US Open dream, says reality can wait
That uncertainty was lifted at the US Open when two teenagers bested the rest to battle in the final. Both of them were born in Canada. But Emma Raducanu, born of Romanian and Chinese parents, learned her tennis in Britain and played under the Union Jack. Leylah Fernandez, who represented Canada, has Ecuadorian and Filipino blood coursing through her veins. None of that mattered. All that mattered was their superlative skills on the tennis court.
Raducanu’s is a tennis fairytale. She served notice of her talent at Wimbledon, where she had to withdraw midway through a fourth-round match. By then, the Brit had garnered enough following, although John McEnroe and Piers Morgan pilloried her for the lack of killer instinct.
Her riposte came at the Flushing Meadows, where Raducanu had to run the gauntlet of qualifiers. Not only did she survive the minefield, but Raducanu also showed her class bringing down several big names, including Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic. Ranked No. 150 in the world, the Brit didn’t drop a set in 10 matches.
Fernandez flashy smile is only matched by her laser strokes that accounted for several seeded players. The world No. 73 run began her spirited run with a third-round upset of world No. 3 Osaka, followed by a win over three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber. In the quarterfinals, Fernandez poleaxed world No. 5 Elina Svitolina before ousting world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka in the semifinals. A giant-killing spree, indeed.
Raducanu triumphed in the final. The qualifier became the champ. An improbable story. At the Arthur Ashe Stadium, Raducanu and Fernandez showed that they are the future of women tennis. Much like Steffi Graf, Gabriela Sabatini, Arantxa Sanchez, and Monica Seles did a couple of decades back.
Raducanu and Fernandez are the new faces of women’s tennis. Fresh and bold.
Look! How Raducanu won US Open
10 players who failed to live up to their potential
Imran Malik, Assistant Editor
Emma Raducanu is the latest success story but tennis can be a cruel sport and there have been a lot of players that have come and gone after a brief run of success. Here’s a list of tennis’ greatest flashes in the pan.
When he called it quits in 2019, it saddened the world of tennis as he was a much-loved player who never quite hit the heights that were predicted for him. He was the first Cypriot to reach an ATP final as a qualifier in 2005, and had his breakthrough year in 2006 when he beat Andy Roddick at the Australian Open to reach the final. But, he lost against Roger Federer. Sadly, persistent injuries plagued him for the remainder of career, he rotated between Challenger level tours and the ATP tour.
Sure, he won 14 ATP singles titles, but his career went downhill when in 2009 he was banned due to testing positive for cocaine. He also regularly lost on the biggest stages to the likes of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer and struggled with an tame forehand.
He was the first man from Asia to play in a Grand Slam final but he struggled with consistency. After beating Novak Djokovic to reach the 2014 US Open Final, he failed to back it up with repeated results while a wrist injury has impaired his form.
In 2010 the Latvian upset Federer in the Rome Open and naturally this garnered a lot of attention but that turned out to be the peak of his career as his success was short-lived due to inconsistency and drama. He has said he wasn’t motivated to practice anymore following a shoulder injury in 2015.
The Belgrade-born player took Federer to five sets at the 2008 Australian Open and upset Andy Roddick at Wimbledon the same year. He won four career titles but that was as good as it got as a foot injury meant he would struggle until the end of career.
The tall Swede will always be remembered for beating Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros in 2009 but then lost against Federer the following year in the French Open and was runner-up again in 2010. But after winning the Brisbane Open in 2011 he sustained a wrist injury and was then diagnosed with a severe form of mononucleosis. He was sure he would be rejoining the tour but sadly he never did and retired in 2015.
He was an athletic genius and could have excelled in any sport. He made his name in tennis but his career was cut short due to constant injuries.
The Australian was billed as the replacement for Lleyton Hewitt but he built a reputation for generating controversy and making tabloid headlines for all the wrong reasons.
He is one of the most talked about players on the tour and fans have been treated to his brilliance on occasions. But it doesn’t matter how talented you are, it doesn’t beat hard work, and Nick just does not seem to have the day-to-day grind and commitment needed to be the best. Every sport has wasted talents and Kyrgios flies that flag in tennis.
He won Roland Garros in 1983 without dropping a set, and as a serve and volley player, which is very difficult to do on clay and should have won at least one or two more Grand Slams. He didn’t because he partied a lot and sadly he also suffered from depression.