Christopher Jackson examines the rise and stall of the 2021 US Open champion, and asks what we can learn from her in our own careers
Emma Raducanu sits in a luxury hotel, immediately more interesting than the backdrop behind her. Interior designers will have specific words for the subtle gradations of brown, beige and mauve which I see, conveying low-key opulence. The gold struts of a light disappear out of shot. Behind her, half-lost in the night, are the ghosts of other buildings, suggesting Raducanu is in some upper floor suite: this feels appropriate since she has been in the stratosphere of sporting stars for the last 14 or so months.
Raducanu is perched on the sofa, professionally lit. She is dressed in what looks like a purple ballgown and which is probably Dior – one of her sponsors. The spangly crucifix which she wears for all her matches – including her 2021 US Open final victory – disappears in the glitter of her dress. It is as if she has found herself by accident in the interviewee’s chair and decided to allot some brief time before heading out for the night.
Recalling the last helter-skelter year, she says: “I’ve had a lot of new things that have been exciting. It’s great to learn from different industries and see new things, and I can apply it into every aspect of my life really, even my tennis. So I think that’s been really eye-opening.”
To recap for those who may have missed what has been without exaggeration the most astonishing fairytale in all sport, Emma Raducanu began 2020 as a little known tennis player. The armchair fan might easily have pigeon-holed her as the latest in a long run of British tennis players who ‘don’t quite make it’. It would have been easy to imagine without any disrespect intended to any of these players that here was another Johanna Konta, Elena Baltacha, or Heather Watson – one of those British hopes, who shine briefly then move off into commentating, coaching, management, or agenting.
It didn’t work out like that. Instead, Raducanu had a promising run at Wimbledon in 2021. At that time, she was ranked outside the Top 300, and entered the tournament as a wild card. She charmed everyone on her way to the fourth round. That match was disappointing at the time, and saw her lose to Ajla Tomlianoviç after experiencing breathing difficulties.
But in retrospect it was formative: Raducanu subsequently entered the US Open Championships and had to win three qualifying matches to be able to enter the main draw.
What happened next would be deemed unlikely if submitted as a Hollywood script. Raducanu went on to beat a string of top players: Stefanie Vögele, Zhang Shuai, Sara Sorribes Tormo, Shelby Rogers, Belinda Bencic, Maria Sakkari and Leylah Fernandez to win the tournament. More than this she did so without dropping a set. On her victory, she received public congratulations from the late Queen Elizabeth II, who called it: “a remarkable achievement at such a young age…testament to your hard work and dedication”.
These developments have let to pressure, of course, but Raducanu herself has been philosophical about that. “I’m a Slam champion, so no one’s going to take that away from me,” she has said. “If anything, the pressure is on those who haven’t done that.”
In short, this sort of thing doesn’t happen; to Raducanu it did.
Raducanu’s victory was astonishing in itself: it also revealed somebody who revealed herself as well-spoken, educated, charming and humorous. She has sometimes been deemed, as we shall see, a poster-girl for social mobility or diversity in sport. Interestingly she has a grammar school background having attended Newstead Wood School in Orpington, which though it celebrates her on its website does so in a more understated way than other schools might.
In fact, for much of her ascent to superstardom, Raducanu was multi-tasking her burgeoning tennis career with A Levels, but now things have shifted a bit. Raducanu continues, telling Harper’s Bazaar: “Even though I’ve finished my A Levels now, I like to keep my brain quite active. Bath time is also when I watch TV or Netflix– I find I don’t get much spare time to do that otherwise. People always ask what I’m watching but it’s usually quite obscure.”
And what is she watching and reading? “Right now I’m really into these different Chinese shows because I’m trying to improve my Mandarin! As for books, I recently finished The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma which is about this lawyer searching for the meaning of life. I like non-fiction books best. I also like talking to my friends – not so much on the phone, but I’m a big texter.”
It’s this which sets Raducanu apart: her maturity and willingness to learn. As you consider the person on the hotel sofa, you realise how she is already an old head on young shoulders, used to being the object of attention and fascination; the impression is of somebody who has very swiftly reconciled herself to fame, as if her astonishing story was what she expected to happen long ago. She came prepared.
So what is it like when the limelight comes for you? When I speak to Chris Eaton, the former World No.317, who reached the second round of Wimbledon in 2008, he compares his own experiences as a tennis player to what Raducanu is experiencing: “I would say that my experience would be extremely different to a lot of other peoples’: it’s rare to have an experience with the press which is only positive. For me, there was no expectation. Nobody got my phone number, social media wasn’t what it was. Accessibility-wise, you didn’t have Instagram where you could message somebody or post something. Emma has outrageous expectation.”
I remember once talking to a tennis coach at Reed’s tennis school, which the former British No.1 Tim Henman – and Eaton – had attended. He told me that many students had been as talented as Henman but Henman had been the only person who, if you told him to hit a ball against a wall for 10 hours, would follow the order unquestioningly.
The story, apocryphal or not, seems to open up onto the question of what success means in sport, and how much should be sacrificed in order to obtain it. Furthermore, success in sport has its relationship to success in other disciplines, and young people already wish to find out how they can emulate her achievements in their own lives.
“I think the confidence comes from just inner belief,” Raducanu has told Vogue. “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.”
But Raducanu’s story is already a layered one as much to do with setback as it is to do with that astonishing victory. 2022 was the year she began to experience reversal as she adjusted to joining the main tour: the latest example of this was her defeat to American teenager Coco Gauff in straight sets in the second round of the 2023 Australian Open.
Raducanu has been both a meteoric success story and someone who has increasingly had to wrestle publicly with disappointment. In the merciless world of stratospheric celebrity, disappointment will mean criticism, most of it unfair. Press intrusion is now an aspect of her life; perhaps it’s even its defining note – along with her newly found wealth which itself cannot come without its own measure of difficulty.
Raducanu admits this publicly, telling Sheer Luxe: “Professionally speaking, I’m very proud of my resilience this year. I’ve faced quite a bit of adversity and I’ve had to keep getting back up a lot. So much stuff is said about me that isn’t true, but I try not to let it affect me. The past year has meant getting used to that side of things – the publicity and hearing all these things I never even knew about myself! The attention on the tour is so intense.”
Behind the beauty and the smile and the Raducanu we think we know there is someone far more complex, and indeed perhaps less obviously enviable than the one we had her down for.
By their endorsements shall ye know them. Raducanu has had the most monied and famous brands beating their way to her door, and this has given her, in addition to instant financial security, a host of commitments.
Raducanu explains in that plush hotel room: “I’ve been lucky enough to work with Dior and Maria Grazia Churi who I’ve met a few times and she’s so nice. I also like that she’s all about feeling comfortable and having casual stuff in your wardrobe that you can wear day to day. Nike is probably another one because I’m always in tennis clothes and don’t go out very often! That said, I think they’re the masters at making the sporty stuff just look a bit cooler. I’m also into quite masculine pieces – you’ll often find me wearing a men’s polo and tennis shorts.”
Eaton explains how it goes for the likes of Raducanu: “It all depends on what contracts she has with these brands. Is it to wear a watch at the end of everything and do one corporate day a year? If so, it shouldn’t be a problem. If it’s a question of five different sponsorships requiring ten days a year, suddenly you’re looking at 50 days a year which then means you don’t get any time off and you’re always working.”
For Raducanu, the sponsorship questions feel different; for this article, we spoke to Christopher Helliar, her agent, who was willing to cooperate on the basis that our magazine was interested in Emma’s substance.
And there’s a lot of that. In general, her endorsements feel thought-through. Raducanu is able to talk articulately about the sponsors she’s signed up with. Consider this excerpt, for instance, this dropped-in reference from an interview with Harper’s Bazaar: “I wake up a lot during the night and my hydration always takes a hit overnight – I’m an athlete, so I need to keep on top of that to perform properly during the day. You’ll always find a big bottle of Evian next to my bed, so the first thing I do is normally have a big glug of water!”
Likewise, her commitment to BA chimes with the jet-setting lifestyle of an international tennis player, and her physical beauty makes her a natural fit for Tiffany’s jewellery and Dior.
But the same brands would be a good fit for many other tennis player on the circuit. As one looks through the long list of her endorsements, one leaps out as somehow being more specific to Raducanu and that is her deal with HSBC to work on financial literacy, about which she has said: “To partner with HSBC is so natural for me having grown up playing in the HSBC Road to Wimbledon and having been a customer for many years. If I wasn’t a tennis player, I would definitely want to work in finance so I’m excited to learn more about the industry in the years to come.”
Raducanu’s parents are both in finance and so it is of interest to look at what the sponsorship might mean. Strangely, HSBC say they are unable to comment which makes one wonder a little about the depth of their commitment to the question itself. However, there can be no doubt that financial literacy is of importance and that the broad idea is valuable, even if HSBC’s approach to the sponsorship might be deemed unduly standoffish.
I talk to Anna Freeman, founder of Zavfit, a business committed to financial literacy. So, what does she make of the partnership between Raducanu and the bank? “From a marketing perspective it makes a lot of sense,” she tells me. “HSBC has always looked to use ambassadors who connect cultures while using sport as a tool for education around their brand and products. Emma is a great example of someone who is young and has found her passion and taken her chance with a brilliant platform to carry a message to a new generation.”
Of course, it’s not necessarily a straightforward match. Freeman continues: “While it’s hard to ignore the fact that Emma won’t be having financial struggles herself anytime soon and she’ll have obligations to support HSBC with their advertising returns, she is relatable to a younger audience while representing aspiration, so using her to help bring education to the next generation is very important. However well it does as a campaign, we’d like the big players like HSBC to continue using real people in everyday situations to tell their stories and make the conversation reach everyone.”
So why is financial literacy a problem in society? “It’s not understood because it’s not interesting. It’s not interesting because it’s not relatable,” Freeman replies. “Children and young people have learnt preconceptions about financial literacy and money from their parents which will usually have a negative connotation. We’re made to think that ‘money = problems’ and so we avoid learning about it. We’re then brought into a society where every finance operator sells the same thing ‘Saving is Good, Spending is Bad’ and the cycle continues from generation to generation.”
So what is Freeman’s solution? “Instead of talking about all the bad things associated with finance, why don’t we talk about the good it could do?” she asks. “How to spend our money in ways that improve our health and happiness and get away from the model that finance is all about protecting a future that feels like lightyears away to the younger generation.”
This failure has real mental health effects in Freeman’s view, and it’s this insight which led to her founding Zavfit. “From our perspective, we see money in the same as diet and fitness – we know people want to do the right thing but they don’t know what that is. We’re all different and so we need to find what works for us. Instead of ‘how much money do I have’ we should be thinking about ‘How can my money make me happy’.”
The above conversation illustrates the power of Raducanu: she can make us talk about things which we wouldn’t otherwise talk about.
Eschewing the Negative
But, of course, building a brand is a complicated business. Formerly of BDB Pitmans, Stuart Thomson is one of the UK’s foremost public affairs practitioners and explains: “Hitting the heights of winning the US Open at such a young age has presented Raducanu with the opportunity of building her brand the way she wants it to be. For many more established players, there isn’t the level of interest or relative blank sheet that Raducanu has. That lack of history is a real benefit to her.”
And does he foresee any difficulties there? “Well, with that, of course, comes the pressure not only to win more tournaments but also to live and breathe her newly established personal brand. Many audiences will be interested in any deviations from the brand and use that against her or to generate click-bait adverse headlines. She will need to get the right people around her in both a sporting and communications setting so that her brand is built and protected for the long-term.”
And, of course, there is a substantial team of people behind her from her financially savvy parents; her agents Helliar and Max Eisenbud; her physiotherapist Will Herbert; her nutritionist Kate Shilland; and hitting partner Matthew James. Professional sport as it grows and expands produces an array of well-paid careers undreamed of even 20 years ago.
Despite these people around her, tennis is often considered a highly individual sport – and it is. There is a loneliness about the match situation which can only be partially offset by the creation of a large entourage. This is tennis’ particular fascination: it is a game of fine margins, where the scoring system makes it possible to win more points than your opponent but still be defeated because you didn’t win the crucial points at a crucial time. There isn’t another sport like this which so advertises the need to compete well in pressure situations.
In others words, it’s an abnormally stressful career choice. It might also be said that Raducanu’s story opens up onto the whole question of positivity in sport and in our lives generally. Her uniqueness is so far encapsulated by that incredible run at Flushing Meadows in 2021. If she never wins another major championship it will always be a remarkable story: it can never be taken away from her.
So how did she manage to hit those heights, and what might we ourselves learn in our careers from her? After all, work must be said to have its element of performance, analogous to sporting performance.
To learn more, I talk to leading psychologist Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, who tells me: “Succeeding in both competitive sports and a competitive life in times of elevated stress requires us to elevate above our emotional reactivity and utilize our prefrontal cortex. This is the part of our brain that enables us to control our emotional responses and channel them into concrete and focused action.”
What’s interesting is that Hokemeyer doesn’t just find this in his sporting patients; it’s replicated in other sectors. “Many of my highly successful patients frequently describe this ability as ‘supernatural’ or as an ‘out of body’ experience,” he continues. “They go on to explain how in this state, they are removed from what they see as their human form and come to occupy a highly mechanical state that has no feelings. In this highly automized state of being, their emotional reactivity is suspended, their physical sensations fall away and their mind becomes myopically focused on the immediate task at hand – be that task winning a tennis match or closing a real estate deal.”
When it comes to Raducanu, she has been able to reach heights few other players have ever managed, but then she has found it hard to rediscover that form. Likewise, in our own lives we have good days and bad days, a period of peak performance, and moments when we end up wondering why we couldn’t replicate our best.
So what is happening to us in our careers when things aren’t working out? Hokemeyer tells me: “When it comes to sport, not everyone is biologically wired to withstand this intense level of being. Some people, in spite of their talents and discipline are genetically wired and environmentally tuned to reject the pressures and stresses of elite competition. Their central nervous systems short circuit the elevated cognition needed to stay focused. For these people, failing or surrendering becomes a primitive and highly successful strategy to put them back into a place of physical and emotional safety.’
So on some level then, it’s almost as if we want to lose. Eaton, who now coaches at Wake Forest, one of the top tennis universities in the the US, agrees with Hokemeyer, and tells me that the very top players – Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray – all of whom he has got to know well on tour and as a coach, very rarely let this mindset enter into the picture. “These very top guys. They have five or six people to take care of them, which definitely helps. But take Andy Murray, who I got to know well – his attention to detail is amazing. Here at Wake Forrest, I’m coaching 22-year-olds and some are very good and some will turn pro. But what’s hard is to get across how far along the best guys are in terms of desire.”
Eaton gives me an example: “Look at the Andy Murray Netflix documentary Resurfacing. It just punches you in the face how desperate he is to be great. You watch the practice drill, the warm-ups, what he’s doing between shots: everything is immaculate. It stinks of desperation to be great. Very successful people are operating on that different level of detail.”
And yet for everybody – even for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and certainly for Raducanu – things go wrong. “For my players here,” continues Eaton, “I see the frustration when it comes to dealing with things going wrong. It’s not this generation’s strength: they’re very used to getting what they want and so when things don’t go well they don’t always respond well.”
For Eaton, if you look at the stories of the great players, they always met a moment similar to the one Raducanu finds herself in 2023. “It seems like everybody has to conquer a personal flaw to get to be great. Federer for a while was too angry, or maybe too relaxed in his personality. He conquered that. Nadal used to seem scared or too timid; he certainly conquered that. There was a point when Djokovic would complain too much about injury. And in that documentary, you can see Andy Murray sitting in a hotel room in Australia having just lost to Djokovic in the semi-final, and saying, ‘This is not acceptable. What can I do to change this?’”
And Raducanu? “It will be interesting to see how she deals with it. She’s young and she’s got expectation and there’s this way out smiling at her – her marketing ability. It will be interesting to see how desperate she is to be great.”
Careers wise, there are sports psychologists out there to help the likes of Raducanu, and a good coach will also be a mentor: here, then, we meet another analogy between the world of work and sport.
One of the leading sports psychologists is Matt Shaw who works for Inner Drive. So what work does he do and how did he discover it was what he wanted to do?
“In my role, I work in two main contexts, in sport and in education. In sport I tend to work in two key areas: all-round development and learning and performance under pressure. In the all-round development element, I help athletes to learn better, improve and to grow as a person, whereas in the performance under pressure element, I help athletes to thrive under pressure when it matters most. Both my sport and education roles require me to deliver 1-1 support to athletes and speak in front of large groups of pupils, staff, and parents.”
So how does he teach players to optimise performance? “Our athletes work with us to explore what being mentally strong really looks like in the build-up to a big event. For example, working on things like how to deal with mistakes, asking for help, and how to appraise stressful and important events. This enables athletes to better focus on what’s important in the moment and to think in helpful ways in order to perform at their best.”
Matt wisely refrains from commenting on Raducanu’s precise plight as he says it’s not helpful to comment from the outside. I ask him instead what it is about those like Tiger Woods who do come back from injury, and what we might ourselves – and perhaps Raducanu herself – might learn from them? “What we tend to see with experts like Tiger Woods and other successful athletes is not only a physical muscle type memory whereby they are able to complete successful movements over and over again, but also a resilience that is built by a long and often challenging path to success. For many athletes we often only hear about their success which of course teaches them how to win and the emotional control associated with that. However, it’s often the tough moments that the best grow in and learn from to get better next time.”
By that measure, Raducanu is entering the most important years of her life now; what she chooses to do in these years will define her as an athlete and as a person. It will be difficult, as all careers are, but that difficulty is also a gigantic opportunity for a new level of greatness.
Simply the Best
But there are many promising signs that Raducanu is grounded and self-aware. She knows she is in that rare category who have not only discovered what they might be capable of, but explored it, conquered her demons, and achieved a career as a result.
But this isn’t the case for everyone; many have an inkling that tennis might be for them, but they have no serious chance of knowing for sure one way or the other. For instance, she has shown herself admirably concerned over the question of social mobility and tennis.
The great issue in relation to tennis is that many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t have the opportunity even to discover if a tennis career is possible for them: our country is full of a latent athleticism which, lacking an easy outlet, fizzles out in far too many cases.
Fortunately, there are many people, and some of them highly influential, who are making it their life’s mission to fix the problem.
One is Nino Severino, a former tennis coach, and the widower of former British No. 1 Elena Baltacha. To say Baltacha, who died of liver cancer at the horribly early age of 30 in 2014, is much missed is to riot in understatement: when she died, she left a terrible gap in many lives.
But this might be to state the case too despairingly: because of what Baltacha committed to during her life, she continues to impact lives positively: her generosity of spirit is her legacy, and, as you talk to Nino, an astonishingly active legacy at that. Raducanu donated two tennis rackets to the charity auction organised by charity Love All, with proceeds going to several charities including the Elena Baltacha Foundation.
I ask Nino how the foundation started: “It was when we were travelling. What Bally noticed whenever we were travelling was that tennis is typically for more affluent children and the kids in the deprived areas weren’t getting a chance because tennis didn’t go to the schools. She said she wanted to do something about it.”
Many would make the observation and then do little about it. Bally, by all accounts, wasn’t like that. “In between travelling the world on tour, we started to organise school trips with a view to introducing tennis to deprived areas.”
Soon others became involved: “Judy Murray loved the idea. That was back in 2010 and she loved Bally like a daughter. She came on as patron and then she was followed by Martina Navratilova. All we’ve tried to do is get as many girls as possible into tennis.”
Raducanu has sometimes been deemed a poster girl for social mobility in tennis. After the famous 2021 US Open victory, the Olympian javelin-thrower Tessa Sanderson wrote in The Sun: “For years, tennis in Britain was generally regarded as a white and middle class sport but thanks to Emma Raducanu now it is not.”
Severino agrees: “Emma is as close to a tennis miracle as you can get. Qualifying was tricky enough so to go and do that. It’s funny though, in all my years of coaching, you come to realise there’s no accident. It’s their pathway to greatness, and it’s their opportunity to continue their rise.”
What Severino is now focused on is giving that same opportunity to as many people as possible. The Elena Baltacha Foundation is focused on young people who may well get on the track to a professional career. Judy Murray (“she really gets her hands dirty”, Severino says) is focused on helping kids near Dunblane. Tim Henman is active in the area too with the Tim Henman Foundation.
Another is Patrick Hollwey, who has founded TennisForFree with comedian Tony Hawks, a charity which aims to regenerate park space with a view to giving young people the opportunity to take part in tennis.
Hollwey tells me about the genesis of TennisForFree: “It’s a bizarre story as to how it all started. My wife was always a tennis player and when I took it up I must admit that I found the cliquiness in clubs quite off-putting. It’s not the most welcoming of environments if you’re not a good player.”
This caught his attention and as his interest in the sport grew, something began to bug him: “I began to notice that the public courts were never used and were padlocked. You had to go down to a hut, pay to get on the court and it made the game a bit unwelcoming.”
And how did he pair up Hawks? “A few months later I was on a plane coming back from India with Tony, and we had both had pretty rough trips. We sat at the bar and put the world to rights; among the topics discussed was the elitism of middle class sport. A few days after the flight, Tony called me up and asked if I was serious about making a difference. I said I was. So we went down to the local tennis court and chained Tony to it. Then we sent a cutting email to the Minister for Sport, the Head of the LTA and other tennis luminaries and we essentially said: “This is a public sporting facilitiy that is locked and excluding people. You don’t do this with basketball, or skateboard parks. Why do you do it with a tennis court?”
Fast forward to 2023 and many people have listened. For one thing, Hollwey and Hawks have an impressive list of celebrity endorsers including Pat Cash, Hugh Grant and Stephen Fry. But the government and the LTA are listening now too.
Hollwey is among those who applauds the government and the LTA in committing to delivering this changed landscape: “We talk with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. DCMS is currently investing £22 million into public tennis courts, and the LTA top that up with £8 million, and £3o million over the next few years. That’s a lot of money going into the question of rectifying the dilapidation of public facilities.”
But there’s still a long way to go, he adds: “What we need to do is to encourage people to get out there. People need to know what is available and what the benefits are, and I don’t think enough people know of the opportunities.”
This is where Raducanu is of such importance. Hollwey says: “I can’t think of any comparisons to Emma’s story – not even Leicester City winning the premier league. To go through qualifying like that – it’s Roy of the Rovers stuff. She’s inspirational to young girls and teenage girls are the hardest to get into the sport – and then to retain.”
Tennis then keeps intersecting with other things: with politics, with business, and with our essential ideas about justice. Perhaps this is a function of its popularity; but of course not all young people who take tennis seriously can have a lengthy career in it.
We might forget what a high level the top players are at: it is quite likely that even if you are stratospherically good at tennis, you’ll eventually meet a ceiling where you can’t get any better.
But if that’s the case then there are other options; excellence at tennis has much to teach us about how to attain excellence in the wider world. Hokemeyer tells me: “I rarely find a highly successful person who has not engaged in some sort of sport in the past or is currently engaged in a sport of some kind in the present. For this reason, I advise the parents I work with to find some sort of sport, activity or hobby their children can engage in.” So what are the precise benefits? “Sport enables our children to cultivate discipline and develop a sense of agency over their lives,” Hokemeyer explains. “In clinical speak, through sport we develop what’s known as an internal locus control. We see the connection between effort and outcome and we develop healthy bodies and minds that can manage stress and conflict in productive ways. It’s also important to note that people can start playing a sport, be it tennis or bridge at any stage of their life.”
Severino sees other synergies between sport and business. “You’ve got to have a Plan B,” he explains and points to his work at SportsSkills4Business which aims to help young people beyond their sporting journey. “We want our SS4B Student Athletes to know that their time in sport is not only about learning how to become technically and tactically skilful at their sport, but also to be connected with the virtues and skills that being a competitive athlete will provide them with,” the website’s mission states.
Hollwey is also bullish about the opportunities available in sport: “There are so many opportunities for people to work in sport. A lot of coaches left the sport during the pandemic; they had no work and took up other temporary careers which have turned into full time careers. So there is a shortage of supply of coaches and particularly new young coaches with a different mentality and a different outlook.”
Eaton also points out the win-win nature of trying to make it at tennis, or other sports. “Some of my students go on to be pro, and go onto the tour; some do well and others struggle,” he says. “We have the same conversation, and I always say: “Go on tour and play for a year.” Don’t go straight into a job. For employers, it’s quite appealing to have somebody who’s been a sportsman, and who has some real experience of having travelled the world. Sport gets you far: it shows that you’re decent under pressure, able to deal with things when they go wrong. I say to my guys: “Do you really want to be the same person as 700 other applicants?” You can say: “I’ve done everything they’ve done, but I’ve spent the last two years in 25 different countries, basically running my own business.”
And Raducanu? The curious thing about these tennis players is that they exercise a certain fascination because of fame, talent, and wealth. But something about the way they acquired all this is so extraordinarily simple – a case of dedication and talent at a single sport – that you find yourself looking for the next thing about them. But often there really isn’t much more to it than this and that is what feeds the media frenzy: an appetite has been created for something which isn’t there.
With Raducanu, the more I look into her I feel differently: she has hit the heights but shown rare dignity when difficulty has arisen. She’s been wise and thoughtful in her choice of sponsors, and articulate about what she wants to achieve, and philosophical when she’s had setbacks. Our world is full of sporting phenomena. Raducanu, in her talent, her single-mindedness, and in her fallibility is something rarer. The only word for it is inspiration – and you don’t need to be a budding tennis player to feel it.
Emma Raducanu Timeline
Nov. 13th, 2002 – Born in Toronto, Ontario to Ion Raducanu and her mother Renee Zhai.
2004 – Moves to England at the age of two, raised in Bromley
2006 – Attends Bickley Primary school in Bromley
2007 – Begins playing tennis, alongside a number of other hobbies including gokart racing, ballet, and horse riding
2013 – Begins attending Newstead Wood School in Orpington
2015 – Becomes the youngest ever to win an International Tennis Federation tournament at the age of 13 when she wins the Nike Junior International in Liverpool
2018 – Professional debut on the ITF women’s circuit, winning the $15,000 ITF Tiberias, her first professional title. Later that year, she would go on to win a second title at the ITF Antalya.
2020 – During the pandemic, she wins LTA British Tour Masters title while preparing for her upcoming A-level exams.
2021 – She reaches the fourth round in her Grand Slam main-draw debut, before winning the US Open without dropping a set. She tests positive for Covid-19, causing her to miss her second exhibition match at Royal Albert Hall. She completes her A-levels, earning an A* and an A in mathematics and economics, respectively.
2022 – Faces aftereffects of Covid-19 and injury, leading to an early withdrawal from the Nottingham Open and causing her to miss Eastbourne. She competes in Wimbledon where she is defeated in the second round, and enters the US Open again where she loses her opening match.