IT is the stuff of fairytales. At just 18 years old, a wildcard British entry has smashed her way into the final 16 at Wimbledon.
Emma Raducanu has long been one to watch in tennis circles, but for most armchair fans this is the first we have heard of the sixth-form student from Kent.
And boy, has she got our attention. Ranked 338th in the world at the start of the tournament, Emma is the youngest British female to make it into the second week at Wimbledon since Christine Truman in 1959.
Incredibly, Emma has spent the past 12 months combining tennis training with revision for her A-level exams in maths and economics.
On dealing with her new-found fame, Emma says her parents keep her grounded, adding: “I cope by giving my phone to my osteo. That’s how I cope.”
With commitments to her studies and the pandemic halting tennis tournaments, Emma had not competed much in the last year.
She said: “To be here now at Wimbledon is unbelievable. It’s surreal.”
She will find out her A-level results next month, but one of her coaches, Matt James, from the Lawn Tennis Association, revealed: “Emma is a perfectionist and won’t be happy with an A, it has to be an A*.”
Emma started playing tennis at five years old. A shy child, her parents had encouraged her to try different hobbies to boost her confidence.
She said: “Dad threw me into every sport you could imagine. I was doing horse- riding, swimming, tap dancing, basketball, skiing, golf, go-karting. All alongside tennis.”
At 12, she won her first International Tennis Federation under-18 trophy. In 2018, she made it to the Wimbledon junior quarter finals.
The teen — whose Romanian dad Ian and Chinese mum Renee moved from Toronto, Canada, to Britain when she was two — has already won £181,000 from Wimbledon. But one expert reckons the teen could net MILLIONS in sponsorships and deals.
Professor Jonathan Shalit, chairman of InterTalent, who has negotiated deals for Olympic stars including boxer Nicola Adams, said: “Brands will be beating a path to Emma’s door. She will earn around £10million in the coming year.
“Emma represents every quality a brand dreams of. Young, unaffected, beautiful, intelligent and quite brilliant. Her family represents the true ethos of modern Britain. Emma is authentic and the real deal.”
Last week lessons at her school, Newstead Wood, in Orpington, Kent, which has its own tennis centre, were paused so students could watch her victories against Russia’s Vitalia Diatchenko in the first round and Czech Marketa Vondrousova in the second. Head teacher Alan Blount reckons the youngster can “absolutely” go all the way to the final.
He added: “When she joined us in Year Seven, she was always tipped as being the next big thing in tennis.”
On juggling her studies with the sport, Emma said: “It was a bit of an escape for me, to have another thing going alongside my tennis.
“It’s actually helped me with my on-court career as I can absorb a lot of information. On court I’m more tactically astute than some others.”
Emma credits her parents for her work ethic.
She said: “They both come from very hard-working countries. They have high expectations, and I’ve always tried to live up to that.”
But her coach Nigel Sears, who is tennis ace Andy Murray’s father-in-law, insisted they are not pushy parents, and her dad Ian has “a very measured approach to things”.
Either way, young Emma is “having a blast”. Having dispatched world No45 Sorana Cirstea on Saturday, she is set to face world No75 Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic today. She says the key to her success so far is to play like it was her “last point here at Wimbledon”.
As the nation roots for her, we hope this won’t be the last we see of Emma in the tournament.