On 11 September, 2021, Emma Raducanu booked herself and Great Britain a place in the history books by winning the 2021 US Open.
Raducanu, who is only 18 years old, defeated 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 in the US Open final to lift the trophy. This is her first Grand Slam title. Just a little over a month later, she’s also earned herself the prestigious title of being a Dior ambassador.
But first, her career. Her tennis win was phenomenal for a series of reasons. The most significant of them is the fact that Raducanu became the first-ever tennis player in history to win a Grand Slam after entering the tournament through qualifiers.
Raducanu didn’t lose a set throughout the tournament. She is the first British woman to win a major singles title since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977. She is also the first British woman to win the US Open after Wade’s 1968 triumph.
Meanwhile, Wade, who watched Raducanu script history at Flushing Meadows, is proud of the teenager.
“As an 18-year-old you dream of being the youngest, the first one to win this that [sic.] or the other and, for her, it’s happened. That’s hard to come by and Emma is just unbelievable,” added Wade.
Following her victory at the grand slam tournament, Raducanu is being hailed by Britain and the world.
Queen Elizabeth II sent a congratulatory letter to her, which Raducanu has said she’ll get framed.
“It is a remarkable achievement at such a young age and is a testament to your hard work and dedication. I have no doubt your outstanding performance, and that of your opponent Leylah Fernandez, will inspire the next generation of tennis players,” the note reads.
The Duchess of Cambridge, too, congratulated the teen.
In his message congratulating Raducanu, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “I think it was stunning and I am sure, like everybody else, I watched the whole thing with my heart in my mouth.”
Following her US Open victory, the teenager jumped 127 places in the world ranking to the 23rd place.
Here are some important things to know about the rising tennis star.
Emma Raducanu is half Romanian and half Chinese
Emma Raducanu’s parents are Ian and Renne. While Ian is Romanian, Renne is Chinese. Both work in the finance sector.
Born in Toronto, Canada, Raducanu moved with her family to London, England, when she was two. Eventually, they settled in Bromley, Greater London. It was at the Bromley Tennis Centre where Raducanu started playing tennis at five.
Raducanu says her parents have played a key role in her performance.
“On my mum, she’s always instilled a lot of discipline, respect for other people into me,” Raducanu said after the third round match of her Wimbledon tournament.
“I think having parents like I do, they always push me. They have high expectations. I’ve always tried to live up to that. And I hope I did them proud this week.”
According to Chinese state-run China Daily, she said, “My mom’s side of the family, when I go over to China, they are so mentally resilient. It’s like nothing can bring them down. I would say I take a big part of my inspiration from her. My mom has worked very hard.”
After winning the US Open final, she told reporters, “My dad said to me ‘you’re even better than your dad thought’ so that was reassuring. My dad’s definitely very tough to please but I managed to today.”
According to Daily Mirror, during the COVID-19 lockdown in England, her father supported her game by playing tennis with her on the street.
Reflecting on the heritage of her Romanian father and Chinese mother, Raducanu told Vogue in a 2021 interview, “My mum comes from a Chinese background, they have very good self-belief. It’s not necessarily about telling everyone how good you are, but it’s about believing it within yourself. I really respect that about the culture.”
However, Emma Raducanu’s parents could not witness their daughter scripting history at Flushing Meadows because of COVID-19 restrictions in the US.
She tasted successes at a very young age
Her first international success came when she was only 10 years old. At that age, she won a Tennis Europe 11 & Under event in Bressuire, France.
A string of wins in the domestic circuit earned her a place in Great Britain’s team for the 2014 12 & Under Winter European Cup. On the back of her 10 wins of 12 singles and doubles matches, Great Britain won a bronze medal.
She won her first junior ITF title at age 13.
In 2017, at age 14, she won Grade 4 ITF events in Hamburg, Germany and Oslo, Norway.
She went professional in 2018
Raducanu’s first important international junior tournament victory came in India in 2018 when the then 15-year-old won the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Grade 3 Tennis Tournament in Chandigarh. Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association (CLTA) Stadium head coach Romen Singh told The Indian Express that her mother used to “sit for hours at the stands at the CLTA Stadium and cheer for her”.
She then won the ITF Juniors Grade 2 event at New Delhi and picked two more junior titles — Siauliai Open in Lithuania and the Biotehnos Cup in Moldova.
She became the junior British Number 1 the same year and made her professional debut with ITF Pro Circuit at an event in China.
In May, she became the youngest player to reach an ITF final and win the ITF $15,000 title in Tiberias, Israel, without dropping a set.
Following the win, she made her debut in the WTA world rankings on 28 May with 14 points at 885th place.
Raducanu also won the ITF $15,000 title in Antalya, Turkey, the same year. In 2019, she won the ITF
W25, or $25,000 title, in Pune, India. The Pune victory was her first in the category and the third professional title of her career.
Youngest British woman in Wimbledon fourth round
In 2018, she made her first attempt to participate in the Wimbledon tournament but failed to qualify. She then played in the junior Wimbledon but lost in the quarter-finals.
She made her senior debut at the Viking Open in Nottingham in June 2021 as a wildcard. As she reached the quarter-finals of the ITF 100K, the All England Club gave her a wildcard entry at Wimbledon.
That gave her the opportunity to enter her first Grand Slam tournament at Wimbledon in 2021. She defeated Vitalia Diatchenko, Marketa Vondrousova and Sorana Cirstea without dropping a set to become the youngest British woman to make the round of 16 at Wimbledon in the Open Era surpassing Deborah Jevans who entered the same stage of the tournament at age 19 in 1979.
In fact, her dominance over Vondrousova was particularly noteworthy. Vondrousova was the finalist at the 2019 French Open, but the teenager defeated her in straight sets to set up her match against Cirstea in the third round.
“Honestly, I’m so speechless right now,” Raducanu said in her post-match interview. “I didn’t know what my reaction would be if I won and that just happened.”
She retired from the tournament after complaining of breathing difficulties during the second set of her match against Ajla Tomljanovic.
By then, her performance in Wimbledon had turned Raducanu into a celebrity. Among the prominent names who cheered and supported her included musician Liam Gallagher, astronaut Tim Peake and footballer Marcus Rashford.
thank you for the support❤️ pic.twitter.com/C47TTvOQK9
— Emma Raducanu (@EmmaRaducanu) July 6, 2021
Tennis player Andy Murray is also one of the biggest supporters of the teenager. Murray’s father-in-law, Nigel Sears, is Raducanu’s coach.
“To be able to have someone like him in my corner, it definitely gives me a lot of confidence in these situations to know that he believes in me,” Raducanu said about Sears. “I’m really grateful that he’s taken a chance on me.”
Ranked 338 in the world before the tournament, Raducanu jumped many places to rank 150 before the start of the US Open.
Li Na and Simona Halep are her role models
Her role models are Li Na and Simona Halep — multiple times Grand Slam winners and icons of women’s tennis. While Li is from China, Halep is Romanian. Raducanu’s choice of tennis idols, therefore, throws more light on the importance she gives to her ancestry.
Raducanu has shaped her style of play, combining the best qualities of the two champions.
“I want to be athletic like Halep. I feel like I’ve got quite a good base right now but a lot to improve on and also Li Na — I’m a massive fan of her game. She’s got such powerful strokes. She went for everything and also she was very athletic in a more aggressive way. I loved her mentality, she never complained. That’s something I aspire to be like,” she said in an LTA interview in July last year.
“I think it’s really such a coincidence that those are two of my favourite players that I try to model my game after. I happen to have a connection to both those countries. I think it’s definitely helped me, the mentality that both of them bring. They both come from very hard-working countries,” she said at Wimbledon this year.
She is also excellent in academics
Raducanu attended Bickley Primary School and later went to Newstead Wood School, which is in Orpington, Kent. Newstead is the same school that British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, the 2019 world champion in 200m, also studied at.
Just two months before her Wimbledon debut, Raducanu sat for her A-levels. She aced the exams, receiving an A* grade in maths and an A in economics. Her parents phoned her to tell her the scores while she was in the US.
— Newstead Wood School (@NewsteadWood) July 3, 2021
Two years before her A-levels, she got three 9s and four 8s in her GCSEs.
“I think staying in school has definitely helped me in terms of having another set of friends I can come into,” Raducanu was quoted as saying by WTA. “It was a different way of life. It’s a bit of an escape as well for me. To have another thing going alongside my tennis, it’s kept my mind occupied.”
A lover of motorcross and F1
Emma Raducanu is a motorsport lover. She used to do go-karting and motocross from an early age. She sometimes reflects on her days as a “wannabe racer” with throwback pictures of her riding “baby kawa” on her Instagram.
Around two months ago, she posted another photo showing her in the driver’s seat of a McLaren revving up the engine.
In 2020, she told Yahoo that Daniel Ricciardo is her favourite F1 driver.
“When I have time I love to watch Formula One and I’ve started to follow it week-by-week – I watched the British Grand Prix and Daniel Ricciardo is my favourite driver!” she said.
“As tennis players, we can learn a lot from their reactions – you have to see everything so fast because the speeds that they’re going at are unbelievable. Those reactions and instincts can relate a lot to tennis,” Raducanu added.
When she was playing the Wimbledon in 2021, she watched an F1 race after winning a match.
Mandarin and visits to China
Emma is fluent in Mandarin. After the US Open final, she left a thank you message for her Chinese fans addressing them in Mandarin.
“Hi, everyone. I wanna say thank you to you guys and I hope you could enjoy my tennis. I’m thrilled to win. Love you all, see you,” she said.
She is well connected to the Chinese half of her roots and good at table tennis, too. In another video posted by CGTN Sports Scene, a Chinese state-affiliated media, Emma was seen playing the game during a visit to China.
Emma Raducanu loves chocolate
During a recent interview with LTA, Raducanu expressed her love for dark chocolate.
“The flavour doesn’t change. It’s chocolate with more chocolate and some chocolate brownie. I’m one of those,” she said, adding that she is “not really a drinker”.
“I don’t like it, I’ll stick to chocolate and good food,” she said.
The tennis star told reporters in New York that she would rather celebrate her win with frozen yoghurt instead of a toast.
Earning millions, but will settle for Apple AirPods for now
Emma Raducanu won US$2.5 million for winning the US Open. The amount is eight times her previous career earnings, which totals to US$303,000.
Owing to her growing popularity among the Gen-Z audience, mixed heritage and having achieved so much at a young age, experts say that she’s here to stay and her earnings are expected to only rise. Besides the prize money, she is reportedly set to earn a bonus from her shoe and clothing sponsor Nike.
“She is very personable, very bright. She answers the questions well. She says the right things – from a marketing point of view that is a dream,” he said.
“Emma’s age, she’s Generation Z, her dual heritage, her growing profile and the global platform she’s on means big things are ahead for her,” Simon Chadwick from the Emlyon Business School told BBC 5 live.
Her current manager is Max Eisenbud, who previously managed tennis legend Maria Sharapova.
But as of now, Raducanu wants Apple AirPods.
“I think I’m going to (buy them) before I leave New York, for sure,” she told Good Morning America on 13 September.
(Main and featured image: WTA Tennis)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore