12 Sep Emma Raducanu: Teenage qualifier’s US Open win could be most unexpected British sporting story ever | UK News
A couple of hours after serving up a slice of history, Emma Raducanu emerged from the bowels of Arthur Ashe stadium, showered, changed into an evening dress and with a hair and make-up team in tow.
Two months ago she was attending her sixth-form prom at a golf club in Bromley; now she is in New York, clutching her new trophy tightly, illuminated by the frantic flashing of camera bulbs.
Is this the most gloriously unexpected British sporting story of all time?
Over the course of one summer, the 18-year-old’s life has changed beyond recognition, from A-level student to one of the most famous faces in Britain.
In a presentation unique to the US Open, Raducanu was handed a cheque by a representative from JP Morgan bank worth £1.8m, more than six times her previous career prize money.
But even the realities of cold, hard cash could not detract from the innocent charm of Raducanu, who has seemed to surprise herself throughout this tournament with just how good she is, nevermore so than when she hit an ace to become Britain’s first female grand slam champion for 44 years.
Absolutely mind bogglingly brilliant. The most gloriously unexpected British sport story of all time?
— Martha Kelner (@marthakelner) September 11, 2021
Her dizzying run to the US Open trophy began in the qualifying event – on one of the outside courts at Flushing Meadows in front of a dozen people – who saw her beat Dutch woman Bibiane Schoofs, a 33-year-old who has never made a grand slam main draw.
Sixteen days later, in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the biggest arena in tennis, more than 23,000 watched her crown the most joyously unexpected of sporting narratives as the first qualifier in history – male or female – to win a major title.
She has enjoyed the crowd support throughout this tournament, but on Saturday they were heavily behind her opponent, 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez, whose every point won was greeted by a cacophony of noise.
But that did not faze Raducanu. Nor did the size of the occasion.
“I’ve no idea what’s going on really outside of Arthur Ashe and outside of our hotel,” she told Sky News afterwards.
“We’ve been in such a great zone and so focused and just haven’t taken anything else into account.”
At her hotel in midtown Manhattan, Raducanu has spent her downtime between matches watching the Formula One and listening to jazz.
She is accompanied by a relatively small team – coach Andrew Richardson, physio Will Herbert, and agent Chris Helliar.
It was this group that she embraced after beating Fernandez in a scene she had played over in her mind hundreds of times since first dreaming of winning a grand slam.
“It’s an absolute dream,” she said. “You have visions of yourself going up to the box, hugging everyone and celebrating.”
The COVID restrictions mean very few British fans have been able to travel, and just a smattering of union flags could be seen in the stands, including that painted on a towel by expats Rebecca and Steve Smith who travelled from Miami to New York on an early morning flight.
“I’m from Kent and so is Emma,” said Steve. “We just couldn’t miss being here and she’s definitely made it worth it.”