Emma Raducanu: The two key victories in Yorkshire on long road to US Open glory

Long before she was crowned the queen of Queens, Emma Raducanu was a tournament winner in Yorkshire.

Emma Raducanu, of Britain, reacts after defeating Leylah Fernandez, of Canada, during the women's singles final of the US Open tennis championships, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Britain’s newest sporting superstar thanks to her remarkable exploits in winning the US Open at Flushing Meadows last week at the tender age of 18, Raducanu not so long ago was one of many young tennis players under the Lawn Tennis Association’s watch receiving her education up and down the land.

She won her first national junior title at Graves Tennis Centre in Sheffield in February 2012, coming from a set down to win the LTA Winter National event.

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Two years later she was back at Graves as part of the Great Britain team at the 2014 12 and Under Winter European Cup.

Emma Raducanu, of Britain, holds up the US Open championship trophy after defeating Leylah Fernandez, of Canada. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Raducanu won 10 out of her 12 singles and doubles matches as Britain clinched a bronze medal.

“Events such as these are extremely important on a young player’s journey,” explained Martin Folger, a tennis coach with 30 years experience of teaching players at Graves.

“Everybody started somewhere, maybe inspired by a coach at their local sports club; their early talent nurtured to achieve greatness.

“Most of our sporting heroes have emerged from local community clubs and they play a pivotal role in society.”

Great Britain's Emma Raducanu holds the trophy as she celebrates winning the women's singles final alongside runner up Canada's Leylah Fernandez (Picture: PA)

The challenge now is for the sport of tennis to turn this enthusiasm for Raducanu into greater participation in the sport.

There are lessons in recent history to be mindful of. British tennis has never had a greater ambassador than Andy Murray and yet despite all his grand slam, Olympic and world-ranking success between 2012 and 2016, participation figures fell from the latter year to 2020, according to Sport England.

The sport experienced a boom following the lifting of lockdown restrictions last year, largely on outdoor courts, but with schools closed during the summer term the LTA is forecasting that weekly participation in tennis among children may fall by up to 100,000 this year.

Raducanu could be the lightning rod to revive the sport.

“Hopefully Emma has motivated the nation to pick up their rackets and head to their local sports club, and who knows maybe she has inspired the next tennis star,” continued Folger.

“Nothing has a bigger impact than leveraging the enthusiasm and passion of a nation following home success on the biggest stage, regardless of the sport or achievement.

“Influential sports stars can play a vital role in growing programmes and delivering events as long as their influence matches the facilities particular needs.

“I believe clubs will now look to deliver more “Try Tennis” programmes to capture the inspired as these are great for new players and those that are coming back from a long break.

“Sessions such as these are great as they provide a safe and social environment with similar level participants.

“These classes can go a long way in building confidence as they create a solid foundation for players.

“Other initiatives such as Cardio tennis may become more popular, as this is designed to introduce new players to the game and provides all players with a fun way to get back in shape.

“Facilities may also look to provide “crossover opportunities” into other sports by providing mixed sports events, which are always popular and fun.

“Clubs can mix other low risk activities in with tennis to increase activity exposure – the time is perfect to inspire and raise awareness.

“There is undoubtably a buzz linked to Emma’s success, and it will be up to the clubs themselves to create innovative and new ways to provide programming and events that capture the nation’s feelgood factor.”

With her powerful backhand, Raducanu has put the ball firmly in tennis’s court.