Updated: September 14, 2021 10:26:15 am
Crunching down-the-line backhands and smacking deep forehands cross-court saw Emma Raducanu keep it all crisp in her breakout Grand Slam title victory at the US Open. Even by women’s tennis’ non-jaded standards, where 20 different players have become Slam champs in the last 10 years, the all-teen final featuring 18-year-old Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez, 19, at Flushing Meadows, seemed to speak of dewey spring in the autumn tournament. Raducanu, with her backstory of immigrant upbringing in the United Kingdom, while being born in Canada to Romanian and Chinese parents, made it a persuasive watch. In an Olympic year, the history-making champion — British Virginia Wade last won a Slam in 1977 — is expected to edge out Tom Daley of August Tokyo Olympic vintage for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year honours.
Raducanu’s story is different from so many other teenage prodigies. Call it the immigrant’s enterprise or the genius of the young woman, Emma aces academics with straight-A’s and could’ve taken her pick from among swimming, golf or table tennis. Tales continue to trickle out about her unwavering focus in training through the pandemic, on streets outside her home and at the neighbourhood tennis club.
Women’s tennis doesn’t recreate the Big Four aura of the men’s game. With no one dominating, it tends to lean back and observe how many waves the likes of Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, and most recently Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty, can ride. Time will tell if Raducanu can hold aloft a few, or many, trophies and string together consistent seasons. There’s the additional challenge to live up to British expectations, which are never tempered, nor proportional, and Sweet Caroline is a fluttering hope away.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on September 14, 2021 under the title ‘Emma’s journey’.
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