Many will not have heard of Emma Raducanu before 2021, and those people indeed could be forgiven for not knowing who she was.
The now 19-year-old from Bromley started the last calendar year ranked 343 in the world of female tennis without a notable professional tournament victory to her name. But that wasn't to be the case for long.
Raducanu was first thrust into the spotlight in June 2021 at Wimbledon, as she raced into the fourth round at the All England Club, winning her first three games in straight sets. However, the Brit pulled out of her tie against Ajla Tomljanovic as The Guardian reported, the experience got the better of her. However, whilst some dissenters criticised Raducanu for her withdrawal, she went away and used it as motivation to move forward. In August, she bounced back in devastating style.
Heading into the US Open at Flushing Meadows in New York, Raducanu was an outsider and had to qualify for the tournament. She did so without a fuss and didn't look back. The Brit won ten straight games culminating in a final against highly-fancied Canadian Leylah Fernandez to become the first qualifier ever to win a Grand Slam tennis title, and the first British woman to win a major since 1977.
That win propelled her into the hearts and minds of the British public, and it was no better highlighted when she was voted as the winner of the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year award in December, capping off a great year she finished ranked 19th in the world. It all sets up what could be an even more remarkable 2022 for Raducanu, who now is considered one of the great young players in the sport and a role model for young females across the world. In January, her new year kicks off with a trip to Australia, at the first Grand Slam of the year is played, before heading back into Europe in May, with the French Open at Roland Garros on the clay surface her second major of 2022. Then, all eyes will be on South London in June, where Raducanu will experience support like she's never had before.
Fans will want to give Raducanu a special welcome to the courts of SW19 in her first British appearance since that US Open victory. That win has elevated her to become one of the frontrunners for the tournament, some six months ahead of it getting underway. Raducanu is the second favourite in the current tennis odds with Coral to win Wimbledon this year and if she were to achieve that goal, she'd be the first British female winner since Virginia Wade in 1977. Joanna Konta twice came close in 2017 and 2019, getting within a couple of matches of the title, but nobody has made the British public believe quite as much as Raducanu. Although she has yet to get close to a home title, she has captured the imagination of the public and tennis fans worldwide. After Wimbledon, it will be a trip back to New York to try and retain the title, and should she succeed; she'd be the first to do so since Serena Williams, who won consecutive titles in 2012, 13, and 2014.
Raducanu has also become an icon off the court, with powerful brands linking up with the Brit. Companies in the UK are lining up to make her the face of their brand; she's already struck up an ambassadorial role with British Airways. But not only that, huge companies recognised worldwide, from Evian to Tiffany's, see the 19-year-old as a marketable asset, highlighted by her agreement with Dior being worth a reported £2 million, all stemming from that high profile victory. The possibilities of future success on and off the court for one of Britain's most promising females are huge, it's a story that still has many chapters to be told, and it's going to be exciting to watch, that's for sure, in 2022 and beyond.
Tagged in Tennis