Tennis Prose




Sep/21

9

US Open New Star Emma Raducanu Emerges

Emma Raducanu: A Dynamic, New Star Has Emerged In The Tennis Universe

By Mark “Scoop” Malinowski

Electrifying, dazzling Grand Slam debuts are rare occurences in the intricately designed orchestra of the pro tennis hierarchy where every single point of every match has to be arduously earned the hard way.
So when 18-year-old Emma Raducanu, an unknown qualifier ranked 338 in the WTA, navigated and marched her way through the more experienced Vitalia Diatchenko, Marketa Vondrousova and Sorana Cirstea to the fourth round of Wimbledon this summer,  naturally the phenomenon caused a bit of a sensation. British tennis observers aren’t quite accustomed to seeing such court excellence performed by one of their own, beyond Andy Murray, Tim Henman, Fred Perry and Virginia Wade.

  
Even some of the most astute and experienced figures in the tennis world came away mightily impressed by their brief glimpses of the power, symmetry, skill and of course the magazine cover smile of Miss Raducanu. 
When asked for her observations of Raducanu’s July exploits, the former Roland Garros champion of 1978 and current manager of Simona Halep, Virginia Ruzici, was quick to reply by e-mail: “I discovered Emma watching her win against Sorana Cirstea at Wimbledon (third round).  I was very impressed and I think that she has a huge potential and a bright future. The way she moves is light and fluent and her tennis is clean with a lot of variety. She has what we call ‘star quality’ as her personality is very pleasant too. I wish her to follow in the steps of Simona, who is apparently her idol.”

Chris Evert:  “She was overwhelmed at Wimbledon and had to default. She’s overwhelming us now.”


Mary Joe Fernandez:  “Very well balanced from  every aspect of her game. She’s looking better and better every match. I like her presence and demeanor on the court. I like her backhand – that’s what she dictates with. I love the fact she said it feels so good to earn your way into a Grand Slam for the first time after she qualified for the US Open.” 

Raducanu followed up th Wimbledon phenomenon with even more sensation in New York as she’s beaten three qualifiers, Shelby Rogers and Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic to reach the US Open semifinals, the first qualifier to do it and third player ranked outside the top 100 to do it.

Though Raducanu is still technically a junior (until November when she will turn nineteen), her best results at Junior Grand Slams were somewhere between very good and mediocre. At age fifteen, she reached the quarterfinals at 2018 US Open and 2018 Wimbledon where she lost 60 61 to the future 2020 Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek. Then Emma lost in the first round at Australian Open juniors in 2019 to Japan’s Himari Sato 62 75.

With plenty of room for improvement and also enough self-confidence to begin testing the waters of international women’s tennis, Raducanu turned pro at 15 and won her first pro title that May, a $10,000 Women’s ITF in Tiberias, Israel, overcoming 14 degree Celsius heat and older, more experienced opposition including Helene Scholsen 76 64 in the final.

In December 2019 Raducanu won the $25,000 ITF in Pune, India by beating Naiktha Bains in the final 36 61 64. After reaching the final in the Sunderland UK ITF in February 2020, Raducanu didn’t play any tournaments for nearly sixteen months (due to pandemic) until June of this year in Nottingham where another British player Harriet Dart beat her 63 64 in the first round. Just before Wimbledon there was a $100,000 ITF also in Nottingham and Raducanu won two matches there over veterans Timea Babos and Storm Sanders before losing to  2010 Wimbledon semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova in the quarterfinal 75 76. This two-match Nottingham success set the stage for Emma’s stunning Wimbledon heroics which provoked plenty of thrilled reactions, such as this one from veteran TV tennis commentator Rupert Bell, “It was one of the most pleasurable experiences I’ve had the privilege of covering, a joy to behold to see an 18-year-old embrace her arrival to the big time so wholeheartedly. A wonderful display. Freewheeling style.”

 Raducanu was born on November 18, 2002 in Toronto, Canada. Her dad Ian is Romanian and her mom Renee is Chinese. Both parents work in the finance sector. The family moved from Ontario to Greater London in 2005 and settled in Bromley. Raducanu started tennis at age five and she said she chose to emulate two Grand Slam champions in particular –  not Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Serena Williams – but Li Na of China and Simona Halep of Romania. “It’s really such a coincidence that those are two players that I try to model my game after. And I happen to have connections to both of those countries. It’s definitely helped me, the mentality that both of them bring. Both come from very hard-working countries. My mom has always instilled a lot of discipline and respect for other people into me. So I think just having parents like I do, they always push me, they have high expectations. So I’ve always tried to live up to that.”

Already Raducanu exudes the aura and fine qualities of a future champion with her politeness, humility, respect and well spoken media interactions.


After her glorious 63 75 Wimbledon win vs Cirstea, Raducanu had only kind words for the 31-year-old two-time WTA champion she eliminated from the tournament. “Sorana is an incredible opponent. I respect her so much and all that she’s done in her career,” Raducanu said at the post-match press conference. “I remember watching her when I was growing up and I was younger. I think she put up an incredible fight as well. We had some great battles, in terms of the points. I just want to congratulate her on playing on the level… but also definitely she would have wanted to win… one of us had to do it. But I’m sure we’ll play again in the future.”

Women’s tennis has enjoyed the diversity of so many colorful characters and champions… the fire and ice of Serena. The innocence and politics of Naomi. The business and hard work of Simona, Angelique, Sofia and Garbine. Could a new, girl-next-door, sweetheart be almost ready to challenge for and potentially take over the WTA Queen’s crown and throne?

“I feel so grateful for every person who cheered me on in the matches.”

“I don’t think I’m that interesting.”

“If I wasn’t a tennis player maybe I’d be a lawyer. I like arguing back, talking back a little bit.”

“I love peanut butter. I can eat it with anything.”

“My favorite artists are Jean-Michel Basquiat and Alec Monopoly.”

The public already adores this new “It” girl named Emma for a multitude of reasons.

Kelsey Constantine: “I watched Emma on TV playing at Wimbledon. I really enjoyed watching her play and was really hoping to see her at the US Open. I went to the practice courts on Monday to see who I could watch practice and was very happy to see she was there. After practice, I was able to get a picture with her. She is not only a great player but such a nice person!”

Emma Raducanu with Kelsey Constantine at US Open 2021.

Walter Homma:  “Brilliant player, lovely girl. Makes me feel proud to be alive with her laughter and love of sport and life.”

Rehan Ebrahim:  “Emma is the best looking player that has ever graced the sport of tennis.”

Leo Vega (played college tennis at St. Leo University): “I was at Key Biscayne a couple of years ago helping some junior player. I saw this girl practicing on the court next to us and she was playing really well. I went over and said to her, You are a very good player. Then the next time I see her, I see her on TV playing in the fourth round at Wimbledon.”


But there is work to do and a lot of high stakes matches to be contested and learned from.  While her management team is carefully guarding her from overexposure by limiting her interactions with media, Raducanu’s progression is right on track to produce an extraordinary, or at least memorable, tennis career. 

Former WTA world no. 7 and winner of seven career WTA singles titles and also the career Grand Slam in mixed doubles, Daniela Hantuchova  has also been awed by “Emmamania.” The Slovakian former champion is also realistic about the future of Raducanu, based on her own experiences dueling week after week with the relentless volumes of tenacious competition and all the other obstacles associated with fame, fortune, expectation and pressure.

“She’s at the stage of her career where you’re really naive in a way, you have no idea what’s going on and you’re just free out there. She has nothing to lose,” Hantuchova said. “So it’s always interesting the following year. When players will look at her and figure out how to tactically play against her. I remember when I was eighteen  when I won Indian Wells (in 2002). When I look back on it, the confidence I had playing Martina Hingis in the finals – she was No. 1 in the world – and there was like zero doubt I was not going to win (it was 26th ranked Hantuchova’s first WTA final and Hingis’s 63rd Tour final). I think Emma is at that stage now where it’s all happening for her. I just hope she keeps it up. The momentum she has, stay healthy and we can have a new face in women’s tennis.”

As far as Hantuchova can see, Raducanu is making the right moves and steps as she climbs up the highest mountain in women’s sports.
“Emma has it all, whatever it takes to become not only a top ten player but I believe also a Grand Slam champion. There is not one part of her game where I would say, ‘This needs to improve.’ Unlike Coco Gauff, where I feel like technically she needs to improve a lot of things. Emma is ahead. Technically there are no mistakes but also the mental strength she is showing, that is something very special.”

“She really connects to the crowd. She is going to be able to gain a lot of energy from the fans all around the world. As soon as she smiles everyone is going to be on her side. We saw her playing on a big court for the first time in America, everyone is trying to get photos with her. I can’t even imagine the future that she has in front of her.”

Raducanu will now play Maria Sakkari for a spot in the 2021 US Open finals vs the winner of Fernandez vs. Aryna Sabalenka.

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2 comments

  • catherine · September 10, 2021 at 1:17 am

    Scoop – as you’ll know by now Emma bt Sakkari and will play Leylah. Interesting quote (Tennis Now):

    ‘Not only is Emma Raducanu winning in NY, she’s also SLIDING.

    “I have started sliding, which I didn’t know I could do actually, and I kind of do it by accident now. I have always wanted to learn how to do it, but now I can do it.”‘
    Clay courts in her future ?

    Couple of points: why does Emma throw her racquet down on the baseline when she wins ? I’ve never seen her pick it up.

    Also – my feeling is that Fernandez will always be more popular in the US than Emma.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 10, 2021 at 9:15 am

    Catherine I knew the teens would play in the final, it was a natural, two huge TV markets to tap into in Canada and UK, imagine the the tv ratings for this teen title showdown. A Sakkari vs Sabalenka final would have been a disaster, everybody I mean everybody wanted to see Leylah vs Emma for all the marbles. Everybody wants to see more of Leylah and Emma, tennis fans, Madison Ave, potential sponsors, we all love seeing these two teen spirits playing smiling loving every moment of their two parallel dreams coming true. And it’s safe to say only a small few want to see more of Sakkari or Sabalenka who are fine players but duds in the charisma department. And no I don’t think there was any outside interference to arrange the perfect dream tv ratings record breaking final it just happened maturally and organically!!!!

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