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Emma Raducanu’s meteoric rise: from unknown wildcard to grand slam champion

Just three months ago, the British 18-year-old was a ‘schoolgirl waiting for her A-level results’ 

When Emma Raducanu made her grand slam debut at Wimbledon in June she was an “unknown wildcard” and ranked No.338 in the world, the Independent said. Just a few months later, the 18-year-old is now a global superstar and No.23 on the WTA world rankings after winning the US Open in “glorious fashion” in New York. 

On Saturday evening Raducanu made history by becoming the first British woman to win a grand slam singles title since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977. She is also the first qualifier to win a major singles title. On her run to her US Open triumph - where she beat Canadian 19-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 in the final - she played ten matches and did not drop a single set. 

“I’ve always dreamed of winning a grand slam,” she told Tim Henman on Amazon Prime. “You just say these things. But to have the belief I did, and actually winning, I can’t believe it. I first started when I was a little girl, but I think the biggest thing that you have visions of is the winning moment, and going to celebrate with your team, trying to find your way up to the box.”

The ‘real deal’

Raducanu’s rise has been meteoric: just three months ago, she was a “schoolgirl waiting for her A-level results and wondering whether she might be granted a wild card into Wimbledon”, said Simon Briggs in The Telegraph. At that point she’d only ever played a handful of professional matches. And having got that wild card, she announced herself to the tennis world by making it through to the second week (before retiring from her fourth round against Ajla Tomljanovic with breathing problems).

Impressive as that achievement was, few expected her to repeat – let alone exceed it – at Flushing Meadows. The teenager’s coronation in New York is the “most gloriously unlikely story ever told in British sport”, said The Telegraph’s Oliver Brown. 

In The Guardian Tumaini Carayol described Raducanu’s achievements as “one of the greatest breakthroughs in sporting history” while USA Today’s Dan Wolken said she’s the “real deal”.

‘Marketer’s dream’

Born in 2002 in Toronto, Canada, to a Chinese mother and Romanian father, the family moved over to England when she was two years old. “It was perhaps inevitable Raducanu would have a career in professional sport, given the way her father pushed her as a youngster,” said the Independent. As well as her tennis practice, she also attended ballet lessons, horse riding, swimming, tap dancing, basketball, skiing, golf, go-karting and motocross.

Raducanu’s package of youth, looks, personality and intelligence make her a “marketer’s dream”, said Frank Dalleres in City A.M. The teen’s international background gives “global appeal, not least in her mother’s native China” and her fearless displays in New York have “unlocked serious earning potential”. 

Matt Gentry, agent to Andy Murray, said Raducanu is in the “fortunate commercial position” of being able to appeal to most brands in the marketplace, not just from a UK perspective. “For her, it’s about picking ones that resonate with her, her beliefs and passions.”

The win in New York has already seen Raducanu walk away with a cheque for $2.5m (£1.8m) - dwarfing the $303,000 (£219,000) she had earned previously during her short career, said the BBC

Sponsorship and marketing consultant Nigel Currie believes “the sky is the limit” for Raducanu’s earning potential. “She is in the right sport, one of the most lucrative sports for female athletes,” he told the BBC. “She has obviously got to keep winning, she is right at the start of her career. There is no reason to assume she won’t go on to win other events and other grand slams.”

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