Emma Raducanu has made history by becoming the youngest British tennis player to reach the US Open final in the Open era.
The 18-year-old from Bromley beat Maria Sakkari of Greece in straight sets in New York in the semi final.
Raducanu is ranked 150th in the world – her opponent was 12th – and this is only her second grand slam. It was the first time she had faced a player in the world top 30.
But her debut at Wimbledon, where she became the youngest British woman in 42 years to reach the fourth round, left no one doubting her.
Despite being ranked 338th at the time, she beat three of the world’s best players to get to the last 16, making her an overnight star.
She was forced to pull out of her last-16 match at Wimbledon due to breathing difficulties.
Having “blown away” editor Edward Enninful, next month she has a multi-page spread in British Vogue.
With celebrities such as Liam Gallagher describing her as a “celestial talent” and Gary Lineker saying she was “joyous” to watch, footballer Marcus Rashford led commiserations when she bowed out.
“It happened to me playing for the national team in U16s against Wales,” he told her on Twitter.
“You should be very proud of yourself. The country is proud of you… onwards and upwards.”
Thanks so much for the kind words, this message means a lot to me. I’ll keep building and be back stronger! 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 https://t.co/R3CGl0AG4U
— Emma Raducanu (@EmmaRaducanu) July 6, 2021
Reflecting back on the match on Instagram, Raducanu said she was “sorry the match ended the way it did” and that “I think the whole experience caught up with me”.
She said she “wanted to win so badly” for all those that cheered her on and promised the experience “will go a long way to helping me learn what it takes to perform at the top”.
That determination was proved just five days later when she got her A Level results – an A* in maths and an A in economics.
James Carlton is the manager at Bromley Tennis Centre where Raducanu trained from the ages of 10 to 16.
He would often coach on the court next to her and see her training.
“She’s incredibly single-minded and determined,” he told Sky News.
“She works very hard. The centre is next to her school so she would be here before, after, and sometimes during.”
The teenager has credited her school – Greater London selective grammar Newstead Wood – with helping her tennis.
“I find it’s actually helped me with my on-court career as well in the way that I can absorb a lot of information,” she said in an interview with the World Tennis Association (WTA).
“I feel that on court I’m more tactically astute than some others.”
Despite being a full-time student, the tennis star’s training schedule would be three or four hours on court every day, followed by extra time in the gym, Mr Carlton explains.
“We would often see her working on her schoolwork in between sessions,” he said.
“She was here every day and when she was on court you could see she was putting everything into it.
“Doing that while maintaining her schooling and academia is even more impressive.”
After moving to London from Toronto at the age of two, Raducanu started playing tennis at five years old.
But back then it was just one of many after-school activities her mother Renee, from China, and her father Ian, from Romania, would take her to.
From ballet lessons with her mum to dirt biking with her dad, eventually her schedule became increasingly focused on tennis.
Her junior career picked up speed and she peaked at a world ranking of 20 in 2018.
That year she reached the quarter finals of Roland Garros and the US Open, but lost both, which she claims was down to injury and her schoolwork.
After turning 18 in November 2020, she made her ladies’ debut at the Viking Open in Nottingham in June as a wildcard.
She lost to her British counterpart, 25-year-old Harriet Dart, in the first round.
But the week after she played another tournament, getting through to the quarter finals in straight sets.
This was enough to convince the All England Tennis Club to give her a wildcard entry at Wimbledon.
Ahead of the Euros and with the UK still under some COVID restrictions, Raducanu’s performance proved a much-needed national success story.
Now in the States as she prepares to play in the final, the 18-year-old has the full backing of the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).
With her own team of coaches, she has the highest level of support they offer through their Pro Scholarship Programme.
Iain Bates, head of women’s tennis at the LTA, described her as a “star already”.
“She’s just been getting better and better with every match. It’s really great to see close up,” he told Sky Sports News.
“Emma’s very focused, once one match has been won, it’s onto the next. She takes it all in her stride. I think we can be hugely optimistic about what’s to come from her.”
Before her quarter-final win, she had already beaten American Shelby Rogers in straight sets – despite being 107 places behind her in the rankings.
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It caught the attention of Virginia Wade, the last British woman to lift the US trophy in 1968, who watched the match.
Raducanu addressed Wade in her victory speech, saying she was “honoured to have had you here” and promised to “do her best”.
Wade told ESPN she is “really good in all departments”, with “fantastic groundstrokes” and concentration, adding: “She’s going to win grand slams for sure”.
With current Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty already out and Serena Williams absent again this year, she is a credible contender for the top prize.
Regardless of the outcome, those back in Bromley are elated she’s got this far.
“We have the TVs on around the centre, it’s great to have her linked to us,” says Mr Carlton.
“Emma has gone the furthest of any of our members and she deserves everything she’s getting now.”