WIMBLEDON 2021 will be remembered for Emma Raducanu.
The 18-year-old took the tournament by storm on her debut to be the last Brit standing and with it captured the heart of a nation.
She became the youngest female homegrown talent to reach the second week at SW19 since 1959 – and took it all in her stride admirably.
Her run came to a cruel end in the last 16 when she was forced to retire against Ajla Tomljanovic on Monday night.
But that should take nothing away from an incredible breakthrough for the Kent teenage sensation.
SunSport looks back on a week where a star was born…
Raducanu was originally handed a wildcard for the qualifying event in Roehampton – rather than the main singles draw at the All England Club.
After all, the British No10 is ranked 338th in the world and only ardent British tennis fans had heard her name before.
She only made her WTA Tour debut in June at the Nottingham Open, losing to Harriet Dart in the first round.
But wins at an ITF event against Storm Sanders and Timea Babos at the same place the following week helped convince the Championships organisers to bump up the wildcard and give her a spot in the main event.
She said: "I’m very grateful for the opportunity I received this week. I am trying to make the most out of it." She certainly did that alright.
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TAKING HER CHANCE
Raducanu was not going to let her moment pass – the Toronto-born star had been waiting 13 years for her Wimbledon debut after taking up tennis aged five, one of many sports as a kid including horse-riding, swimming, tap dancing, basketball, skiing, golf and go-karting.
And from 4-1 down in the first set, she swept aside Russian Vitalia Diatchenko 7-6 6-0 in round one – her second-ever tour-level match – to set up a second-round clash with former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova.
Despite 292 places separating the pair in the rankings, Raducanu put in the performance of her life – until Saturday – to win 6-2 6-4 and guarantee a £115,000 pay cheque.
And the teenager – who moved to Britain aged two with Romanian dad Ian and Chinese mum Renee – refused to be overawed when she stepped out on to Court One for the third round against seasoned pro Sorana Cirstea.
After wrapping up yet another win, confirming her spot in the second week, she said: "When I won, I didn’t know what my reaction would be. I’m just so happy and so grateful for all the support I’ve had.
“This is by far the biggest court I’ve ever played in and I think I coped quite well on that stage.
“I just tried to hold my nerve. You really got me through the first set, the second set and the whole match.”
DOING IT IN STYLE
It is not often Brits have the chance to get excited about a tennis prodigy breaking through and delivering on the big stage – but this week has been different.
Not only did Raducanu get impressive results with wins against players ranked far higher with bags more experience, she did it with some scintillating tennis.
She smashed down six aces in round one and followed it up by simply outplaying Vondrousova.
And against Cirstea, she showed the watching world just how good she really is with 30 winners in the 6-3 7-5 win, which included some remarkable passing shots especially on her weapon of a backhand side.
It is clear to see Raducanu – on the LTA Pro Scholarship Programme – has all the tools to compete at the top level in tennis.
This week came as no surprise to ex-British No1 Anne Keothavong, though, who first spotted Raducanu when she was 11.
The Great Britain BJK Cup skipper said: “I remember thinking she was really special. Even then she had the game – and was looking to take the ball on the rise.
“In terms of her future, we’re talking top ten. She is the real deal."
THE CHARM TO MATCH
One accusation fired at Sir Andy Murray before his 2012 waterworks was that he could be hard to warm to and a tad boring.
Well, there is no chance of that with our new hero Raducanu.
She balances her driven, competitive edge with sheer joy on the court, smiling throughout and clearly loving every moment – the crowd appreciate that and respond accordingly.
And then when she gets behind a microphone, Raducanu is articulate, witty and well-spoken.
Her press conferences were authentic and refreshing as she chatted openly and honestly about dealing with pressure, her young career and family.
But it was one comment after beating Cirstea that really won over the Court One crowd and those glued to their TVs.
Delighted Radacanu admitted she was 'speechless' at her triumph – and revealed she has run out of clean kit.
She said: “When I was packing to go into the bubble my parents said, ‘Aren’t you packing too many sets of kit?’
“Now I’m going to have to do some laundry tonight. But they have a laundry service at the hotel.”
Tennis, ultimately, is a results-based business – winning matches pays the bills.
But speaking of results, Raducanu played at Wimbledon still waiting for her A-Levels to come back and expects to get A*s when she opens that envelope next month.
She has spent the last year combining her maths and economics studies with her tennis schedule – but just about knows where her priorities lie now.
A post shared by Emma Raducanu (@emmaraducanu)
A post shared by Emma Raducanu (@emmaraducanu)
Raducanu, whose teachers emailed her during the Grand Slam, said: "I’d choose round four of Wimbledon over my exams.
"Everyone thinks I'm absolutely fanatic about my school results. They think I have such an inflated ego about it.
"Actually, I would say I have high standards of myself. That's helped me get to where I am in terms of tennis and also in terms of school results.
"I won't accept anything less than an A*. I think that's what people around me think about me. I also feel like I have to live up to that expectation now. That's why I also work so hard to try and get those grades."
Raducanu has gone from virtual unknown to household name in the space of one crazy week.
She admitted she has given her phone to the osteo to help her cope with the never-ending notifications and messages.
Andy Murray, son-in-law of her coach Nigel Sears, was among the ace's fellow British tennis stars to congratulate her on her grass-court gallivant.
But famous faces from all walks of life tweeted their support for the Brit over the course of the winning streak, from ex-footballer Gary Lineker to music icon Liam Gallagher and astronaut Tim Peake.
The rise of her stardom really is out of this world.
It was not the way anyone would have wished for Raducanu's dream campaign to come to a conclusion.
Holding her own against Tomljanovic, she was struggling physically and had difficulty breathing on Court One on Monday night.
After a medical timeout, the brave Brit could not continue and retired at 6-4 3-0 down.
Keothavong is confident the teen will be 'fine' once she has had time to process and recover while Matt James, Raducanu’s former coach, said: “Tough way to bow out but incredibly proud of this girl. I can guarantee she’ll be back stronger.”
Yes, it was a bitterly disappointing way for her to say goodbye to this year's tournament knowing at full fitness she could have fought her way back into the contest.
But rest assured, this will not be the last we see of Emma Raducanu on the famous, hallowed lawns of the All England Club.
A star really has been born this Wimbledon fortnight.
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