By TAMARA PRENN
Two former British tennis number ones admit they are still stunned by the achievements of successor Emma Raducanu.
Raducanu won two awards at the Sports Journalists’ Association British Sports Awards, rounding off her astonishing breakthrough year in professional tennis.
The 19-year-old superstar was the recipient of the SJA Peter Wilson Trophy for International Newcomer, as well as Sportswoman of the Year, which was voted for by SJA members.
Annabel Croft testified to the singularity of Raducanu’s 2021 success, which saw her become the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era as she triumphed in the US Open without dropping a set.
Croft said: “Raducanu has exploded onto the scene on the grandest stages that you could possibly imagine and she’s taken everyone’s breath away.
“It’s extraordinary that she’s achieved so much, so young, so quickly. She’s almost doing an apprenticeship in reverse.”
Whilst Raducanu wasn’t able to receive her awards in person, Croft took to the stage to share why the new British number one is such a positive role model for British tennis.
Croft said: “She’s a very inspiring character. She underlines determination, hard work, application, but she does it with lots of charm, and lots of joyfulness.”
Now over to Sportswoman of the Year and for an extraordinary summer that started to blossom at Wimbledon and completely flourished at Flushing Meadows, it is @EmmaRaducanu! #SJA2021 pic.twitter.com/ON5gjMbQjl
— Sports Journalists (@SportSJA) December 2, 2021
On top of her US Open win, Raducanu also reached the fourth round of Wimbledon on her Grand Slam debut, just weeks after finishing her A-levels.
Anne Keothavong, captain of the GB Billie Jean King Cup team and another former British number one has followed Raducanu’s ascent since knowing her as a young player.
She said: “Obviously the US Open is a 2021 highlight, but even her run at Wimbledon on her debut – seeing everything happen for her so quickly, I’ve just been in awe.
“Raducanu’s story has been a fairytale for her, and British tennis.”
Looking ahead to 2022, Keothavong spoke to the importance of how Raducanu responds to the eyes of the world, now keenly focused on her career, in the run up to her next Grand Slam.
She added: “Emma’s got good people around her, a fantastic work ethic, and so much to be excited about, but it’s going to take a lot of adjusting. I can only imagine what her life is like now.”
The next big challenge for the world number 19 is the Australian Open, which begins on 17 January at Melbourne Park