You could be forgiven if you hadn’t heard about Emma Raducanu a month ago.
But if you still haven’t heard of her – it’s time to get with the program.
The 18-year-old Brit stormed through the US Open draw this past September, coming through the qualifying competition to win 10 consecutive matches over three weeks to win her maiden Grand Slam title… and didn’t even drop a set.
In fact, Raducanu only lost more than 4 games in a set on a single occasion (in qualifying against No. 167 Mariam Bolkvadze). The rest of her matches might have even been generous in the scoreline, as she bulldozed her way against opponents of both greater pedigree – such as reigning Olympic champion Belinda Bencic – and similar, including fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez in the final.
In each match, Raducanu showed the poise of a seasoned veteran and the fearless abandon of a player her age, possessing a delicate balance of measure and power on her groundstrokes that seems rare in the women’s game. One must be careful how they throw around the word ‘perfect’ in professional sports, but it really doesn’t get much more perfect than the brand of tennis that the unheralded World No. 150 played to win the final major of 2021.
Despite her unprecedented rise up the rankings, Raducanu insists she’s unfazed by the sudden thrust into superstardom, especially in her home country where her US Open final shattered viewership records across the board.
“When I was at home I still didn’t really go out; I didn’t go to a restaurant or anything, I was just at home with my family,” said Raducanu. “I didn’t really get too caught up in it. I just focused on my tennis and my training.”
The current World No. 22 (up over 300 places since the start of the year) arrives at the 2021 BNP Paribas Open for her first tournament since her US Open triumph, but does so without a coach. She departed with long-time coach Andrew Richardson two weeks after New York and has yet to settle on a full-time replacement – but is in no rush to do so.
“Jeremy [Bates] is part of women’s tennis at the LTA so while he’s here he’s helping me out” said Raducanu about her temporary arrangements to cap off her breakthrough year. “But going forwards, I’m just going to wait and try and find the right person. I’m not going to rush into anything and I want to make sure that I make the right decision.w
“At the moment I’m confident. I know that even though I’m quite young, I’ve got a lot of experience banked. At the end of the day you’re out there on your own and you have to be your own coach on the court.”
Born in Canada to a Romanian father and Chinese mother, the new British No. 1 is comfortably a global citizen, though the US Open win has made her a global star.
Her simple advice to keeping her feet on the ground?
“Just keep having fun with it, really. I’d say that’s the biggest thing.”
If she can follow through on her own advice in the desert this fortnight, she might just keep having fun all the way to the title. After all, the last two champions in Indian Wells – Bianca Andreescu and Naomi Osaka – each won the US Open in the same year.