Picture by CHRIS JACKSON / GETTY IMAGES

Emma Raducanu’s meteoric rise in tennis: The U.S. Open champion’s new life

The British tennis player has gone from world No.361 to a Grand Slam champion in three short months. She’s headed for Indian Wells, California, next week – her first event since the U.S. Open.
By Nick McCarvel

Three months before tennis player Emma Raducanu was hoisting the U.S. Open trophy and getting an invite to the Met Gala in New York City, she wasn’t ranked inside the top 10 – in her home country of Great Britain.

In mid-June, as the International Tennis Federation was announcing the line-up for the Olympic tennis event at Tokyo 2020, Raducanu, 18, was ranked 361st in the world; the No.11 British women’s player.

The teen needed a wild card to enter Wimbledon, her home major.

What happened over the next 10 weeks was something tennis had never seen before: From a breakthrough run at the All England Club (which captured the nation’s attention) to qualifying for the U.S. Open’s main draw and then – match by match – becoming its most unlikely champion ever, Raducanu rocketed herself into the history books.

All by playing aggressive, ball-bashing baseline tennis. She didn’t drop a set in 10 matches played in Flushing Meadows.

While the “what happens next” storylines are inevitable, Raducanu has risen to a global sports star status with her magical summer of tennis. Just today (28 September), she was awarded a wild card to play the WTA 1000 event in Indian Wells, Calif., set to begin 4 October.

MORE: 5 things you didn't know about Emma

So, what does her new life look like?

U.S. Open champion: Trophy shoots and red-carpet invites

Raducanu’s U.S. Open run hit its crescendo in the women’s final, when she faced off against the other story of the tournament in Canada’s Leylah Annie Fernandez. The match, won 6-4, 6-3 by Raducanu, was “a moment” for women’s tennis: A near sell-out crowd watched the first Open Era final to include two unseeded players.

U.S. broadcaster ESPN announced it was the most-watched match of the entire event, with over 3 million people tuning in near its end.

Raducanu would do hours of media following her victory, and then a late-night photoshoot at the Open with Arthur Ashe Stadium as the backdrop.

Suddenly a household name, she appeared on American TV morning shows on Monday, including Good Morning America and the TODAY Show.

“It was the best time of my life,” she said in her appearance on TODAY.

It didn’t stop there, however, as Raducanu got the invite to the prestigious Met Gala, one of the fashion and entertainment world’s biggest nights.

Back home, Raducanu was being honoured by the Brits, too: The Royal Mail, the British postal service, included a special congratulatory stamp for Raducanu on all mail going out the week following the U.S. Open.

Not to mention a royal hit around with the Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine, herself.

Raducanu made sure her historic run was preserved in many ways, too, including donating her U.S. Open kit to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Team Emma: Who’s in, who’s out?

While Raducanu’s tennis has spoken for itself on the match court, behind the scenes it has had many eyes on it over the past several months. It was Nigel Sears, a high-level coach on the pro tour and father-in-law to Andy Murray, that was at the helm during Raducanu’s Wimbledon run, but things shifted as the North American hard court season got underway.

Enter former British player Andrew Richardson, who guided Raducanu leading up to and during her run at the U.S. Open, with Richardson’s friend – former world No.3 Tim Henman – serving as a sounding board for the fast-rising Raducanu.

“Andrew is a very good coach,” Raducanu said during the U.S. Open. “He is extremely experienced having played himself. He knows the ins of the game and what it takes to perform as a player from a player's perspective. He's very good at instilling the fundamentals into my game and just making me realize like doing the basics to a really good level is going to take you a long way.”

But post-victory at the U.S. Open meant another changing of the guard – Richardson out, but who will be in?

If Raducanu is to give any hints, it appears as though she’s after a seasoned, top-level coach and/or former player, now with her world No.22 ranking – and moniker of Grand Slam champion.

"I need someone who’s had that professional tour experience,” Raducanu said. “I just really need someone right now who has been through that and can really guide me along the way because I’m still very, very new to everything."

Raducanu rules: Taking her time

The announcement on Tuesday about Raducanu’s Indian Wells wild card was not a surprise inside tennis, but a clear indication that the British teen is going to take things at her own pace – and play by her own rules.

She will be making her debut at the famed Southern California event, just her second main draw WTA event (she made her debut at San Jose in July).

There are only weeks left in the WTA calendar for 2021, but Raducanu still has an outside shot at qualifying for the WTA Finals, which were recently moved from Shenzhen, China, to Guadalajara, Mexico.

Raducanu is 14th in the race to the finals, and a win in Indian Wells could launch her into the top 8 cutoff. She's filled out her schedule with an apparent eye on Guadalajara: Indian Wells, followed by events in Russia and Romania.

Regardless of if she makes the finals or not, the joy is still pure: “Nothing beats this,” she wrote on an Instagram post showing her... where?

On the tennis practice court.