Why the Emma Raducanu Story is Important for World Tennis

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Wimbledon is the oldest and most prestigious Grand Slam event on the circuit, and every summer, it delights tennis fans around the world.

Last year the tennis calendar was disrupted, meaning when the first serve of Wimbledon 2021 flew over the net, fans were eager for their fill of excitement. They didn’t have to wait long; an 18-year-old wildcard entry ranked 338th in the world captured a nation’s heart with her dogged displays.

Emma Raducanu was barely expected to get past round one, but as Yahoo Sports reports, she defeated Vitalia Diatchenko to get her first tournament win. In the second round, she shocked 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova, then ensured the run of Sorana Cirstea came to an end in round three. It put her in round four without dropping a set and into the second week.

Sadly, round four was a step too far for the teenager, who only completed her A-Levels this year. She was forced to retire with breathing difficulties during her game against Ajla Tomljanovic, which cost her a possible quarterfinal game against Ashleigh Barty. That could have been a sensational encounter for the home fans, with Bwin ranking the World Number One as the outright favorite for the title. Instead, Tomljanovic set up the all-Australian game, which she lost 6-3, 6-1. Few in Great Britain noticed that result, though, as they focused on their breakout star.

Emma Raducanu headed into the tournament 338th in the world, which saw her as the lowest-ranked player to compete this year. Whilst fellow British wildcard entries fell early, Raducanu battled through to become the poster girl not just for the nation but for world tennis. The likes of Steffi Graff and Boris Becker made their names at Wimbledon, and with each emerging star, the game gets a shot in the arm in terms of popularity. So who is the latest emerging name?

Raducanu was born in Toronto, Canada, to a Romanian father and a Chinese mother before the family relocated to London when she was two. Since a young age, she has played tennis but always harbored a desire to compete in motorsports, and she participates in go-karting and motocross in her spare time.

“One of the best things with Emma is that she was exposed to a lot of sports early on,” said Matt James, a Lawn Tennis Association coach. “She was doing golf, ballet, motocross and horse riding from a very early age. It means that when she’s learning a new skill, she has the ability to pick things up very quickly.”

The head of women’s tennis for the LTA went one further, “It was Emma’s first Wimbledon, and she only played her first match on tour three weeks ago,” he said. “But all the evidence we have seen this week suggests she has a very bright future.”

Indeed it does. She made her WTO main draw debut in June at the 2021 Nottingham Open, and just a month later, at the age of 18 years and 239 days old she became the youngest British woman to reach the last 16 of Wimbledon in the open era. That alone guarantees her a top 185 place in the WTA rankings, a leap of more than 200 places.

Raducanu leaves Wimbledon $251,000 richer, having previously amassed career earnings of just $37,000. More importantly, she has already secured sponsorship from Nike and Wilson and will now seek to impose herself on the global game. Marcel Knobil, the founder of the Brand Council consultancy, believes this is only the start for the young star.

“Fame can evaporate very quickly, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Especially in a climate where we’ve been so down in the doldrums. We’re looking for an opportunity to raise optimism, and brands want to be associated with that.”

After 18 months or more of restrictions, curfews and the pandemic, a story like that of Emma Raducanu is enough to lift not only the nation of Great Britain but the whole tennis world, reinstalling the belief that anyone can aspire to be anything they want to be.