British tennis fans will never forget 2021 and that’s all down to teenage sensation and US Open champion Emma Raducanu.
The 18-year-old’s debut performance at Wimbledon in the summer had the British public on the edge of their seats before her journey came to an abrupt end when she retired in the fourth-round.
At the time she was relatively unknown, ranked 338 in the world and nobody could have predicted just a few months on she’d be one of the most recognisable faces in tennis.
Raducanu went on to achieve tennis history at Flushing Meadows just a few months later as she became the first ever qualifier to win a Grand Slam and didn’t even drop a single set in the process.
It’s been a steep learning curve for the now British No.1 as she’s climbed to world No.20 and Metro.co.uk takes a look at what we’ve learned from an exciting few months now her 2021 season has come to an end.
Andy Murray’s heir apparent
For years British tennis fans have followed Andy Murray’s highs and lows which saw him win three Grand Slams, two Olympic golds and a memorable Davis Cup for Great Britain.
Injuries have taken their toll though and despite making a recent comeback, at 34 years of age, his best days look all but over.
Raducanu’s arrival on the scene now gives British fans genuine hope at major tournaments once again and she will certainly be carrying the flag for the future generation of tennis players coming through given her remarkable journey to date.
Raducanu’s ability to win a Grand Slam as a qualifier at just 18 years of age is a true underdog story and one plenty of youngsters will take inspiration from.
The teenager has received plenty of praise and support from fellow pros in the game already and will now be looking to build on her success in her first full season on the WTA Tour in 2022.
Style as well as substance
Not many tennis players look more dangerous on their return than their own serve, but that could certainly be argued in Raducanu’s case.
Raducanu showcased her returning and backhand strengths en route to glory in New York and rarely was she on the defensive in any of her matches.
She’s not afraid to take the game to her opponents and having an aggressive style of play certainly makes for a more interesting watch for the neutral tuning in.
Raducanu is exciting to watch and with improvements to her already impressive serve to come her game should soon be taken to another level, especially given her game management will come on with the more experience she gains.
She bounces back
One of the most remarkable achievements during her US Open triumph was the way in which Raducanu handled the occasion mentally.
This was a teenager who was competing in only her second Grand Slam, thrust into the media spotlight and playing in front of thousands of fans, who didn’t even have her parents courtside due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Raducanu played without fear throughout and embraced all her media duties, off-court activities and the pressure of the tournament with a maturity the belied her tender years.
At the back of her mind would most likely have been her retirement at Wimbledon when she pulled out of her fourth round match with Ajla Tomljanovic amid breathing difficulties, while some, including the likes of John McEnroe, suggested the magnitude of the occasion got to her.
Whatever the case, Raducanu overcame the issues to end Britain’s 44-year wait for a women’s Grand Slam singles champion and admitted the Wimbledon experience helped her in New York.
‘I took away that it was for me more of a physical issue,’ she said.
‘To win a Grand Slam you need a lot of mental strength so I think the resilience part of it sort of speaks for itself.
‘I needed to go through all of that to win a Slam. Physically I’ve still got a lot of work to do because I’m still new to the game and haven’t had time to really develop.’
An exciting future ahead
Raducanu finally ended her search for a new coach this week by confirming Torben Beltz as her new permanent appointment ahead of the 2022 season.
Many were surprised at Raducanu’s decision to part ways with Andrew Richardson after the US Open and she’s since been to tournaments without someone in her box.
She made it clear she wanted to ensure she didn’t rush into making a quick appointment and having held talks with Beltz she’ll be hoping he can achieve the same level of success he managed with Angelique Kerber.
The German helped Kerber win two Grand Slams and claim the world No.1 spot during one of three spells working alongside the 33-year-old.
The next step for Raducanu will be looking to break into that top 10 while enjoying her tennis on the tour and picking up valuable experience that, as everyone hopes and expects, brings more Grand Slam titles in the future.
It’s a decision that could play a huge part in how next year plays out.
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