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Tennis

Emma Raducanu’s US Open success and Harvey Elliott’s injury for Liverpool show varying fortunes of teens

LESS than 24 hours after Emma Raducanu had won the women’s US Open, Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott was carried from the field at Elland Road with his ankle rearranged.

Such are the varying fortunes of two richly talented 18-year-olds.

Teen Emma Raducanu won the US Open last Saturday
But Harvey Elliott suffered a horrific ankle injury a day later

One leaving Flushing Meadows clutching her tennis trophy, the other bravely waving towards applauding fans with nothing immediately to look forward to but a series of operations.

Youth comes with magical hopes and when accompanied by the word ‘precocious’ – the early flowering of high promise – it can lead to massive earnings and fame.

Today, Raducanu is glorying in an unparalleled achievement in a sport that demands courage of a different kind from that in a team game.

A bleeding knee was the rare accompaniment to her tennis triumph, Elliott’s dreadful injury was his only trophy.

Success and self-confidence are in the gift of mental strength. Raducanu proved hers, recovering from a daunting experience at Wimbledon by sweeping her way to her coronation in New York without the loss of a single set in ten matches.

Elliott was so highly regarded at Fulham he was picked as the youngest debutant in Premier League history at just 16 years and 30 days.

 


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He had been at school just before he made his debut in an EFL Cup tie nearly a year before.

Five months later, transferred for an arbitrated fee of £1.5million plus £2.8m in add-ons, he made a record debut for Liverpool. Truly, the football business has evolved.

Improvements in coaching, treatment, understanding of how an adolescent body should be developed and better diet has lowered the age at which young players hurtle to the highest levels.

Teenagers of high calibre are always a delight.

And when one reaches peaks most of us can only dream of, that delight becomes thrilling, too.

Early breakthroughs occur quite often in tennis – such as Boris Becker winning the Wimbledon men’s singles at 17.

Boris Becker is one of sport’s greatest teenage stars

Kids, we know, love taking risks and the nature of the game is to do this. And greatness can last from the teens into the late 30s.

The playing span of football is extending at both ends, too.

Jude Bellingham was just 16 when he first played for Birmingham City.

He moved to Borussia Dortmund for £25m-plus after a year or so and made his debut for England a year later. Only Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney were younger.

Bellingham’s parents are said to be proud and caring.

This ain’t necessarily so with some dads and mums. From experience, a few are a pain in the neck, greedy for the son and greedy for themselves, too.

Jude Bellingham is a superstar at 18

Careers may be gradually built rather than rushed.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has moulded Phil Foden exquisitely into his own version of an attacking player, one who quietly destroys slumbering or slovenly play.

Since the millennium, no fewer than 25 young men beat him to a first cap. More than a century ago, teenage internationals were commonplace.

The earliest, James Prinsep of Clapham Rovers, was 17 years 252 days when he played for England against Scotland in 1879.

Not all these young internationals reached starry heights, as Stanley Matthews, Jimmy Greaves or Duncan Edwards did in the days when young men were seen to be brilliant but not heard to say so.

Some run out of glory quite quickly. I doubt whether Tony Allen or Bobby Thomson are much remembered beyond the outskirts of Stoke or Wolverhampton.

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