Britain’s Emma Raducanu celebrating victory during the second round of Wimbledon
As she celebrated her second Wimbledon win with a Hollywood smile and a breezy wave of her honeyed arm, spectators at Court 12 were left in no doubt that they were witnessing the rise of a new star.
With her polished look and easy confidence, she could have arrived fresh from a Florida tennis training academy.
But the teen who set Wimbledon alight on Thursday night is in fact an 18-year-old from Bromley, who – just a few weeks ago – was sweating over her A-levels.
No one was more surprised than her neighbours to see Emma Raducanu, last seen whacking balls back and forth to her dad in the quiet south-east London cul-de-sac where they live, on our screens.
Retired Dave Moore, 74, would regularly see her practise in the street and told the Mail: ‘It was virtually every day when it was dry and the sun was out.
‘I knew she was quite good because she used to play for England in the juniors but it wasn’t until last night that I saw her on TV.
‘She’s very motivated and I think her father really pushes her. I speak to them but funnily enough they never mentioned Wimbledon.’
Another neighbour, student Chidera Pius, 18, was also surprised: ‘I knew that she used to train a lot – especially in lockdown – but I didn’t know she was in Wimbledon.’
Today Emma Raducanu will step on to the hallowed grass of SW19 for the third time, still waiting for her exam results, as the last British woman standing in the singles at this year’s tournament.
Yesterday, Emma’s Romanian-born father, who goes by the English name Ian, told the Mail he was in awe of his daughter’s performance.
Having been handed a late wildcard for the tournament, she is the world number 338 and was a virtual unknown before knocking out 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova on Thursday.
Emma Raducanu is the last Brit standing in the ladies’ draw at the Wimbledon Championship
Celebrating victory: Raducanu captured the attention of a nation when she knocked 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova on Thursday as her Grand Slam debut continues
‘I’m proud of her,’ he says. ‘There are a lot of people helping her through it. It’s a big team effort. You’re competing against very good people. It’s a very serious sport.’
Emma has paid tribute to her parents, who are understood to work in finance and maintain a low profile on the tennis circuit.
She was born in Canada to her Romanian father and Chinese mother before moving to England at the age of two.
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.
‘When I was younger it was to please them, but now it’s great for me to do it on my own – that’s where I think I see the best results: when it’s me driving it.
‘They both came from academic families and in tough countries growing up – my dad in Romania and mum in China.
‘They were both communist countries, so education was kind of their only option. They want me to have options, they think my education is very important for my future.’
Their ethos has clearly infused their daughter, who is gunning for both academic and sporting success.
When asked if she’d prefer A*s or a spot among the final 16 during her post-match interview, however, she said: ‘I’d have to say round four of Wimbledon.’
Emma still wants top grades though, and has just finished at Newstead Wood, a highly selective girls’ grammar school in Orpington, where she had studied maths and economics.
‘I have high standards. That’s helped me get to where I am in terms of tennis and also in terms of school results,’ she says.
The teenager, whose only treats are peanut butter and a solitary square of dark chocolate, reckons she’d probably be a lawyer if she wasn’t so focused on tennis.
Having been handed a late wildcard for the tournament, 18-year-old Emma is the world number 338 and was a virtual unknown before making her first appearance at Wimbledon
One gets the feeling Raducanu, who regularly visits her father’s native home in Bucharest, where she enjoys her grandmother’s cooking, would have been good at whatever she turned her hand to.
She’s spoken about how her dad threw her into every activity at a young age, from ballet to horse riding, swimming, tap dancing, basketball, skiing, golf and go-karting – as well as tennis.
‘My dad wanted to give me a diverse skill set and I was quite a shy girl and he wanted to get me out of my shell.
‘As I started winning in tennis, tournaments would take up the weekend so these other activities couldn’t happen any more, and tennis took over.’
But not completely. She took her books on tour with her and says: ‘For me, education is a great thing because I would love to keep my mind occupied, just challenging myself in every aspect. It is a great option in case injuries happen, or tennis doesn’t work out.’
She began to hone her skills seriously with coaches at Bromley Tennis Centre from the age of ten.
Pictured: British number 10 Emma Raducanu (R) with Britain’s number eight Katie Swan (L) during the GB Fed Cup Media Day at The Queen’s Club on January 31, 2020 in London
Senior manager Tom Defrates told the Mail that she was one of the most skilled players the club had ever seen and used to fit in up to five hours a day of training.
Even after Emma left the club to train with the National Tennis Centre a couple of years ago, she would still pop in occasionally.
Tom said: ‘She’s a really good egg. She’s so down to earth. There’s no arrogance there at all and she has worked hard to get where she is.
‘It’s nice to see it paying off. Who knows how far she will go?’
From 16, she left the centre to train at the Lawn Tennis Association’s national centre in Roehampton, south-west London.
She has credited Matt James, one of her coaches there, for helping her meteoric rise.
Parting ways in October 2020, Emma tweeted her thanks. Matt replied: ‘She is going to be one serious player and hopefully inspire lots of girls to pick up a racket.’
The slender teenager, known as Radders, can squat thrust more than most men – 80kg.
Certainly, the future looks bright for the right-hander, who speaks Mandarin and loves binge-watching Taiwanese TV shows.
As she savoured the post-victory glow this week, one of the first to congratulate her was Sir Andy Murray, who has mentored her.
It’s not her only link with Britain’s most successful player: her coach is his father-in-law, Nigel Sears, Kim Murray’s dad. ‘I knew she was exceptional the first time I saw her,’ he said on Thursday.
As for the future, Wimbledon may be the ‘pinnacle’ (her words) but she wants it all: Top ten ranking, Grand Slams.
‘I think one of my best qualities is I’m pretty scrappy and gritty and they’re two words I would describe myself as,’ she declares.
Elegant and electrifying would fit the bill, too.
Additional reporting: Robert Firth