How Britain served up a smash hit superstar: Emma Raducanu’s recipe for glory was iron will, modesty and a family who believed

  • Emma Raducanu’s parents have remained surprisingly incognito in the crowds
  • But Ian and Renee Raducanu have been influential in their daughter’s journey
  • There is a rumour Ian spoke of wanting Emma to have a new coach for each shot
  • Emma, 18, credits her parents’ ‘high expectations’ with shaping her work ethic 

Beth Hale looks at Emma Raducanu’s incredible journey to the top…


While the likes of Judy Murray and Richard Williams have become almost as well-known as their champion offspring, Emma’s parents have remained surprisingly incognito.

Discreetly sitting in the crowd (rather than with the coaching team) at SW19 earlier this year, they weren’t able to travel to the US to attend the tournament because of Covid-19.

But make no mistake, Ian and Renee Raducanu have been hugely influential in their daughter’s remarkable journey.

Romanian Ian and Renee, who is Chinese, were living in Toronto, Canada, when only child Emma was born, and the family moved to the UK when she was two.

Both work in finance and home is in a cul-de-sac in Bromley, south-east London, where Emma and her dad would hit tennis balls together in the street during the Covid lockdowns.

Ian has been particularly devoted to the intricacies of raising a tennis star. There is a rumour on the circuit that he once spoke of wanting his daughter to have a different coach for each shot.

Former GB player and commentator Mark Petchey told the Mail this week: ‘[Ian’s] outlook on tennis is wide-ranging and he is happy to think outside the box.

‘As a coach, he challenges you – his view is the coach does not necessarily know everything.’ 

Harry Bushnell, who coached Emma from the age of six to 11 at the Parklangley Club in Beckenham, London, says: ‘It really is a well-grounded machine. It’s a great combination of Ian, the dad, who is the driving force behind the tennis and the mum who is there saying, ‘you’ve still got to study’.’

But far from pushing tennis, Harry says Ian wanted Emma to make her own choices. 

‘He definitely gave her some autonomy,’ he says. ‘Her father was the first person to ever say to me ‘we are cutting her tennis programme so she can do some other things.’

Emma also credits her parents with shaping her work ethic.

In an interview last year, she said: ‘My parents definitely have high expectations. In anything, not even just tennis. I have to be the best, do the best I can.

‘They both came from very academic families and in pretty tough countries growing up – my dad in Romania and mum in China – so they probably have a lot of that remaining… They want me to have options, they think my education is very important for my future.’

Emma Raducanu’s parents Ian (top right) and Renee (bottom left) have remained incognito but they have been hugely influential in their daughter’s journey


Only a few weeks ago, Emma was anxiously awaiting her A-level results – an A* in maths and an A in economics.

It all began at Bickley Primary School in Bromley. Earlier this week, teacher Rebecca Rodger said Emma had always been sporty.

‘She was very shy, too, but we had some tennis coaching in the summer of her reception year, and with most kids at that age, you’re lucky if they’re even making contact [with the ball],’ she says. 

‘But there was Emma having a rally with the coaches. We couldn’t quite believe it. Even then I remember thinking that we were going to see her at Wimbledon.’

Emma went on to Newstead Wood, a selective girls’ grammar school in Orpington, whose alumni include sprinter Dina Asher-Smith. 

The school shares a site with the only purpose-built tennis centre in south-east London. Emma’s day would regularly begin and end with a session in the tennis centre.


Long-limbed but muscular, Emma, pictured with physio Will Herbert, appears far taller than her 5ft 8in.

‘You do have to be very strong, they [the women players] hit the ball very hard but because of that you have to cover the court even more,’ says Jo Durie.

‘Through her strength she has a lovely flowing movement, she could be a ballet dancer almost, but she has strength within it.’

And that’s quite some strength.

Long-limbed but muscular, Emma, pictured with physio Will Herbert, appears far taller than her 5ft 8in

The slender teenager can do chin-ups with a set of rings that would make bodybuilders proud, squat thrust more than most men (175lb) and – according to British teammate Heather Watson – hip thrust 440lb. 

As Heather said: ‘Most of the guys can’t do that.’


Even when she has a momentary blip, ‘Radders’, as she’s known by her British teammates, composes herself and smiles.

It’s as if the crashing disappointment of Wimbledon, when she withdrew from her fourth-round clash with Ajla Tomljanovic, never happened. 

‘It’s a great learning experience for me going forward and hopefully next time I’ll be better prepared,’ she said.

‘As coaches we talk about scar tissue, those tough moments that haunt you,’ says childhood coach Harry. ‘But she’s so good at dusting herself off and going again.

‘She used to always do stuff first time of asking… it was like she had been on this earth before and that’s what I’ve seen again watching her on screen this week. 

‘She composes herself, plays two or three unbelievable points in a row and then she has won the match.’ 

Jo Durie, the last British woman to reach a US Open semi-final, in 1983, says: ‘At Wimbledon she hadn’t played very much for 18 months, was thrust into the limelight, played great and it was a bit overwhelming, which I get, but she has learned from it quickly.

‘She has got those qualities of great faith in herself and her game – she is fearless on points, not even a split-second thought.’

Jo says word had spread about Emma’s court talent long before she hit the international stage. 

‘I’ve never met Emma, but word gets around, over the years. I’ve heard, ‘watch out for Emma Raducanu, she’s going to be good,’ and of course we all go and watch and I was like, ‘wow, her mindset is awesome’.

‘I wish more people would have fun doing it, even looking back at my own career, I should have had a bit more fun.’


Smashing records on her way to the US Open final has sent Emma’s prospects off the court into the stratosphere.

The 18-year-old will earn £1.44million if she wins, and the loser’s cheque for £865,000 is a whopping four times her career earnings to date. 

Smashing records on her way to the US Open final, Emma (pictured) will earn £1.44m if she wins, and the loser’s cheque for £865,000 is four times her career earnings to date

But it’s away from the court that her earnings potential looks set to rocket; marketing experts reckon she is on course to make many millions with endorsements and deals.

She is already managed by Max Eisenbud, one of tennis’s most powerful super agents, who helped former Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova earn up to £20 million a year in sponsorships.

Emma has a racquet sponsorship with Wilson and a clothing and shoe deal with Nike, but the competition to sign up new deals will be ‘absolutely huge’, say experts.

Having already surpassed Andy Murray’s earnings at the same age, agents say Emma could go on to beat his career total of £44,859,841 on the court – and the tens of millions extra he has gleaned off it.

Steve Martin, global chief executive of M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, says of Emma: ‘She could easily get to the stage where she could surpass Andy Murray – probably quite quickly. She really could be huge.’


Emma’s Instagram following is increasing as quickly as her fearsome down-the-line backhand.

Incredibly well liked on the tour – ‘I’ve never heard a bad word about her, which is quite unusual,’ says an insider – she’s equally appealing to those outside the sport.

As she began her first qualifying round of the US Open, Emma had 406,079 followers. 

She now has 642,000 and was yesterday gaining them at the rate of 8,000 an hour.

Seduced by the girl with the million dollar smile: JAN MOIR revels in Britain’s pride at tennis star Emma Raducanu 

Her first US Open. Nine matches played, zero sets lost, every opponent dismantled and undone under the brisk firepower of her shots and her calm resolve under pressure.

Now, at Flushing Meadows tonight, Emma Raducanu will be the first British woman in a major singles final for 44 years – and the first qualifier in history to go all the way. The question is, dare we dream?

Dare we dream about a new British sporting star, a freshly hatched champion and potential winner of tennis titles for years to come? 

Someone who might bring home a trophy this very weekend that has eluded the nation since Virginia Wade won way back in 1968, wearing her hair in a bun while playing a tippy-tap game with ye olde wooden racket. 

At Flushing Meadows, Emma Raducanu (pictured) will be the first British woman in a major singles final for 44 years – and the first qualifier in history to go all the way. Dare we dream?

A style of playing, I might add, that even she conceded later was ‘a bit boring’.

To 18-year-old Emma, surely all that must seem like some sort of Jurassic age; a time when ancient tennis giants roamed the courts in canvas plimsolls with ankle socks, in an era when topspin and big prize money had barely been invented.

Indeed, while she is the brightest new sporting protege to emerge in the UK for many years, Emma seems terrifyingly young; born in the year that Serena and Venus Williams were facing each other in the Wimbledon singles final for the first time. 

Even now, she is barely out of school. Yet despite only finishing her A-levels this summer, Emma has a maturity that stands her in good stead.

On the court and off she exudes the cool poise of a champion in the making; physically graceful, emotionally earthed, completely inspiring. 

Even more remarkably – unlike the many taciturn, introverted top seeded players we know all too well – she seems to be full of joy about tennis and her role in the sport.

Win or lose, in good times or bad, Emma’s dazzling smile makes everyone else smile, too. In grand slam tennis, her cheerful disposition is as unusual as it is irresistible.

She is so impressive in every way that parents across the land must be holding her up to their own children as a golden example of what can be achieved with diligence, determination and guts.

Yet post match interviews also reveal Miss Raducanu to have somehow managed to remain utterly charming and unaffected.

Sporting protege Emma (pictured) seems terrifyingly young; born in the year that Serena and Venus Williams were facing each other in the Wimbledon singles final for the first time

And it is particularly delightful that in an age of cynicism and sporting posturing, she seems just as elated by her success as the growing army of fans who follow her every match.

After reaching the last 16 at Wimbledon on her Grand Slam debut earlier this year, Emma, bubbling with the excitement of youth and perhaps grasping for the first time that a wonderful future now fluttered ahead of her, like a golden ribbon, spoke of being astounded by her own capabilities.

‘Some of the shots I was making, I had no idea I could do anything like that,’ she said afterwards, and credited the cheering spectators as her inspiration.

But there is steel there, too, as shown by more than just her incredible bounce back from Wimbledon heartbreak. She digs in under attack, comes back from losing points and has more than a few killer shots in her arsenal.

After watching her play, Virginia Wade described the teenager’s game as ‘ticking every box’ while an appreciative Judy Murray calls her ‘the Teen Queen’.

One of her old teachers at Bickley Primary School in Kent spoke of her former pupil Raducanu in glowing terms. ‘Focused, determination, perseverance, resilience, all of those things. She was always very strong as a character, she was always very determined and you can see that on court,’ she recalled.

What is remarkable is that it is only seven years since the player, who is now the UK’s number one female seed, finished primary school. 

After reaching the last 16 at Wimbledon on her Grand Slam debut earlier this year, Emma (pictured) spoke of being astounded by her own capabilities

‘Time has flown by,’ said Emma, quite the understatement of the century. Her focus has not wavered and her intent all along was to get her exams out of the way and clear the decks.

‘Now I can now focus on my tennis and tournaments and give it everything I have got. Now I feel I can really start my journey,’ she said earlier this year.

How utterly thrilling that this is only the beginning of her journey. 

Tonight she will play 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez of Canada for the US Open title – two dazzling teenage girls ushering in an exciting new era in the world of tennis.

Dare we add to Emma’s burden by piling the weight of national expectation upon her shoulders?

It is an encumbrance that has made giants like Andy Murray momentarily buckle on the path to greatness. 

But already it seems clear that if anyone can cope, Emma Raducanu can. And she will do it all with a smile, too. 

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