Nottingham Open wild card to US Open finalist - who is Emma Raducanu?

By Josh Luckhurst

At the beginning of June this year, only hardened tennis fans may have heard of the promising talent that is Emma Raducanu but now the 18-year-old is the face of British tennis following a stunning three-month period where she has taken the elite level by storm.

Raducanu only made her WTA Tour main draw debut in June at the 2021 Nottingham Open - a warm-up tournament for Wimbledon - and needed a wild card just to gain entry for the event.

She met fellow Briton Harriet Dart in the first round and succumbed to a 6-3 6-4 defeat. However, her display impressed the All-England Club enough to offer Raducanu another wild card for the second grand slam of the year at SW19 - an opportunity she grabbed with both hands.

Raducanu was born in Toronto, Canada on November 13, 2002 to Romanian father Ian and mother Renee who originated from Shenyang in China before moving to England as a toddler.

Her talents did not stop at only tennis as she grew up juggling the hectic lifestyle of ballet, horse riding, swimming and go-karting during her formative years before settling on her current sport, which she took up at the age of five after her parents starting playing at a local park.

She enjoyed a successful junior career, reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open and US Open and also won three ITF Circuit titles between May 2018 and December 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic halted her progression and Raducanu decided to focus on her studies.

But as restrictions eased, Raducanu returned to the tennis court under the tutelage of coach Nigel Sears, father-in-law of three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray, ahead of the grass-court season.

Emma Raducanu (AP)

She had attempted to qualify for Wimbledon in 2018 and 2019 but fell at the first hurdle, but the 2021 tournament would see a new star born as the 18-year-old, who was ranked 338 in the world rankings, advanced to the fourth round following victories over Vitalia Diatchenko, Marketa Vondrousova and Sorana Cirstea.

Her commanding performances on court and calm demeanour off it saw her become an instant hit with British fans, who supported her after she was forced to withdraw from her clash with Ajla Tomljanovic due to breathing difficulties.

Sears departed despite their Wimbledon success and he was replaced with Andrew Richardson, who was one of her youth coaches.

Raducanu reached the final of the WTA 125 event in Chicago but lost to Denmark's Clara Tauson to climb inside the world's top 150, but more was yet to come.

She breezed through US Open qualifying without dropping a set to reach the main draw before defeating Stefanie Voegele and Zhang Shuai, who beat Raducanu in a WTA event at the Silicon Valley Classic in August, and Sara Sorribes Tormo - all in straight sets - to reach the last 16 at her second successive grand slam.

Her run continued with victory over Shelby Rogers to make the last eight, where she faced the toughest test of her career against Tokyo 2020 women's singles champion Belinda Bencic.

However, a brilliant 6-3 6-4 win saw her climb to world number 51, become British number one and book her spot in the semi-finals.

But more records were going to be broken.

A stirring 6-1 6-4 success over Maria Sakkari saw her become the first qualifier, male or female, to reach a grand slam final, the first British woman to reach a grand slam final in 44 years and first British woman to reach the US Open final in 53 years - the latter two since Virginia Wade, who was at Arthur Ashe to witness Raducanu's dominant last-four victory.

She will face adversary from the junior ranks Leylah Fernandez, who turned 19 during her run to the US Open final, and we can expect fireworks in the all-teenage final at Flushing Meadows.

Regardless of Sunday's result, there is one thing for sure - Britain has a new superstar called Emma Raducanu.

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