mMost young British stars spend years cracking America. Emma Raducanu did it in three dizzying weeks. And so was the dexterity and staggering proportions of her first Grand Slam win – which ended with her flashing an ace before falling to the ground and rubbing her eyes like she wasn’t in an impossible dream – it felt all natural, immediately speculate where it ranks in the pantheon of the nation’s great sporting triumphs.
Up, definitely. Maybe even the highest. Certainly for an individual.
After all, never in tennis history has anyone battled their way through three qualifying rounds of a Grand Slam before winning the entire tournament, let alone an 18-year-old who was rated a 400-1 underdog by bookies. Plus, she managed to do it without dropping a set. If a young writer dared to introduce such a script to Hollywood, it would have been thrown in the nearest trash can quickly.
But it was all true. The check for $ 2.5 million (£ 1.8 million). The praise of legends like Martina Navratilova. The top television audience of 9.2 million Britons wants her 6: 4 6: 3 victory over the Canadian Leylah Fernandez. Even rare news from the Queen, one ER congratulating the other.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” said Raducanu afterwards with a conviction that was as amazing as her tennis. “I’m still only 18 years old. I just have free rein in everything that comes my way. “
She later joked with ease that she took for granted that her first goal at the US Open was to make enough money to replace her lost Airpods.
Now, however, her visor is being sharply recalibrated. Public relations guru Mark Borkowski, who has worked with Michael Jackson, Joan Rivers and Led Zeppelin, among others, said Raducanu had the talent and charisma to potentially become Britain’s first multi-billion dollar sports star.
“This is the beginning of something more epic,” he said. “She’s a billion dollar girl, no doubt about it. She is the real deal. She not only plays exceptional tennis, but also her origins, her ethnicity, her intellectual freedom. People also love the fact that she is vulnerable, but they laugh away at the pressure. “
One cannot do without such number exercises entirely. Forbes recently found that another tennis player, Naomi Osaka, the highest paid female athlete in the world, made $ 60 million in 2020, of which $ 55 million from more than 20 corporate sponsors, including Google and Louis Vuitton. In her corner, Raducanu also has Max Eisenbud, who directed Maria Sharapova’s career.
And it doesn’t hurt that Raducanu, who was born in Canada to parents from Romania and China, speaks Mandarin. After her win in New York, she used her second language when speaking to the US Open’s official Weibo website to thank the Chinese public for their support.
Notably – an adjective often used in Raducanu – it’s only been three months since she made her WTA Tour debut at the Nottingham Open in June, losing to another British player, Harriet Dart, in the first round.
It’s also been barely two months since she had to retire with difficulty breathing during a fourth round game at Wimbledon. After that, a number of middle-aged men, including TV host Piers Morgan, found a perverse delight when they suggested they couldn’t cut it.
How she proved them wrong.
“Nobody does it that fast, that good,” said Navratilova after seeing Raducanu on Saturday night. “Your rise was more than meteoric. I’ve never seen it before, that’s the truth. ”And although it was a breathtaking year for British sport, Team GB taking their medals at the London 2012 Olympics and England reaching the Euro 2020 final is nothing like Raducanu. No wonder she’s an overwhelming 20-1 favorite with bookies to win the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award. Even these opportunities don’t look ridiculous. She’d have to shoot Bambi to keep from winning.
Your appearance comes at the perfect time for sports too. With Roger Federer and Serena Williams turning 40 this year and Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in their mid-30s, tennis needs new heroes. And in Raducanu, a student smart enough to get an A in math and an A * in economics but normal enough to appeal to almost anyone, it has the perfect candidate.
Unsurprisingly, the Lawn Tennis Association is already starting to notice anecdotal evidence of the “Raducanu Effect” with more and more young girls asking for tennis lessons, despite an LTA source saying it was too early to provide numbers.
But as Matt James, an LTA trainer assigned to Raducanu from 15-17 full-time, puts it, “I think she will inspire a lot of people, especially young girls. She has such a great attitude. She goes out and says, ‘I’ll just enjoy the experience.’ At the same time, however, she is a bitter competitor who can be grasped under enormous pressure. “
Another measure of Raducanu’s growing popularity with young viewers was over the weekend when she doubled her Instagram follower number to 1.4 million in less than 48 hours. Charlie Beall from the digital consultancy Seven League – whose clients include the NBA, Barcelona and Raducanus Management Group IMG – noticed something else in the data.
“For the past week, she has had a 38% Instagram engagement rate, which is exceptional,” he said. “Basically, it’s the percentage of people who like, share, or view your content and shows how engaged your audience is. To put it in context, most brands would be happy about 1%. “
This commitment, believes Beall, is not only due to Raducanu’s success on the pitch. “Young people are interested in people who are like them,” he said. “She is 18 years old and was born in digital. She grew up with messaging apps and social media platforms so it feels intuitive to her.
“And the digital audience is savvy. They ignore ads and ignore content they don’t like. A high interaction rate on social media is therefore the gold standard for potential sponsors. “
And for Raducanu this is just the beginning, according to the prediction of former British number one Tim Henman: “She will win more of it. This is not a fairy tale out of the pan. She currently plays top 5 tennis. It’s going to be a hell of a ride. “Time to buckle up.