At 18 years of age, she unexpectedly wins the US Open and is suddenly a rising star in the world of tennis and a role model for an entire generation. In this issue of Christophorus, the new Porsche brand ambassador, Emma Raducanu, talks about motivation and motorsport.
A novel that is world literature. “Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence,” wrote Jane Austen about her protagonist in 1816. The first name Emma, which is the title of the famous book, means “whole” or “universal.” When the Raducanus name their daughter Emma, they are expressing their high hopes for her. Emma Raducanu is born in Toronto on November 13, 2002. Her father, Ian, was born in Romania, while her mother, Renee, is Chinese.
When Emma is two years old, the family moves to the United Kingdom, making their home in Bromley, just about an hour’s drive southeast of downtown London. Her parents work in the finance industry. The heroine of the novel, who is close to the same age, lives in Highbury, which is almost precisely the same distance from the city. But the two inspiring Emma biographies are worlds apart, of course. While the literary figure is destined to idle away the hours, the athlete trains for success from an early age.
Resilience and logic
“I feel like my culture and family background have definitely played a part in who I am,” says Emma Raducanu, when we get together for the photo shoot. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of resilience from my mom, which helps me on the tennis court. I’m more logical in my thought processes. I feel like that is from my dad. Both of them expected a lot of me. They inspired and motivated me.” During her sports career, she completes her A levels with top grades in mathematics and economics. And she’s passionate about motorsport. “Tennis alone would be too one-dimensional,” she says. And the young woman leaves little doubt, brimming over, as she is, with curiosity and lust for life. She can imagine studying economics or law. But first tennis.
She begins playing when she’s five years old. She practices before school and again in the evening. She even continues training when the floodlights go out. “My dad always told me, if I could serve in the dark, it would be easy in the daylight.” Even as a child, she knows exactly what she wants to do: play at nearby Wimbledon and clinch a Grand Slam victory. She also begins driving go-karts at the age of six. “I thought it was cool and a lot of fun. The better I got, the more I enjoyed the feeling of speed and control.” Not even motocross racing gives high-energy Emma pause for thought. “Which kid doesn’t like getting dirty in the mud?” she asks, laughing. “Seriously though, that was a step up from go-karting. Motocross requires coordination and balance – and gives you an adrenaline rush.”
The sound of the 911 before school
Attributes that are also necessary for tennis. Beginning with her 13th birthday, Emma Raducanu is eligible to take part in International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournaments for players under the age of 18. Just eight days later, she’s the youngest player in ITF history to win the Nike Junior International in Liverpool, the first superlative in her budding career. She has long had a permanent trainer, who happens to drive a sports car. “Hearing his 911 pulling up at 7 o’clock in the morning was pure motivation,” she says. “I really liked the car and dreamt of having a Porsche one day.” She goes to Brands Hatch to watch the British Carrera Cup races and the Tourenwagen Meisterschaft final. She even visits a Formula 1 Grand Prix. “I follow different categories. I like Formula E because it’s an environmentally friendly innovation and the electric motors generate sensational acceleration. All the passing is also really exciting. I was thrilled when Porsche won for the first time!” She has experienced the performance of an electric vehicle firsthand – in the Taycan GTS Sport Turismo. “It was the most high-performance car I’ve ever been in on a public road.” She would like to race again – but first tennis.
Full throttle in 2021
As number 338 in the WTA global rankings, she competes in Wimbledon in early summer using a wild card and makes it into the last 16 – as the youngest British player to get through to the fourth round in the professional tournament. That’s the next superlative.
Just weeks later, she competes in the second Grand Slam tournament of her career: the US Open. In order to play in New York, she first has to fight her way through qualification and effortlessly wins her three matches. No one initially takes much notice of her at Flushing Meadows – that is, until she excels in the first three rounds and beats Shelby Rogers in the last 16. She goes on to defeat Olympic champion Belinda Bencic in the quarter final and Maria Sakkari in the semifinal and wins the tournament against Leylah Annie Fernandez 6–4 and 6–3 in the final match. Including the qualification, it’s her tenth victory in a row without losing a single set. A qualifier had never won the trophy before, turning the world of tennis upside down. The media runs with the story, and the winner is congratulated on all sides. Even the British Royal Family publishes the queen’s words of congratulations, and Martina Navratilova twitters, “A star is born!” The BBC names her Sports Personality of the Year, and the WTA Newcomer of the Year. In early 2022, she’s named Member of the Order of the British Empire for her service to her country and is the youngest woman to be honored in this way. How do you deal with that as a teenager?
“Tennis alone would be too one-dimensional.”
Emma Raducanu on her love of motorsport
In the paternoster lift
Loved by just about everyone and criticized by virtually none, Jane Austen’s heroine Emma Woodhouse would have an easy job of it. But life is not a novel. Emma Raducanu has become a celebrity not with a single stroke, but with many professional strokes, some of them exceeding 160 kmh. Well-wishers and critics ride up and down with her as if in a paternoster lift. Her motivation on her way up and down: “Continuous improvement and getting better and just trying to learn and experience new things.” Emma has big plans. But first tennis. And then we’ll see.
Text and Photos by Heike Hientzsch
First published on christophorus.porsche.com