By: Stuart White 16-09-2021
A couple of weeks ago most of you, if asked if they had heard the name Emma Raducanu, would have shaken your heads but what a difference a fortnight can make. This week the young tennis player – for that is what she is – is headline news all over the world after winning the US Open on Saturday night at the tender age of 18. Her win even eclipsed the loss on Sunday of World No. 1, Novak Djokovic, in the men’s final of the same competition to Russian player Daniil Medvedev, robbing the hugely popular Serbian of his chance of a Grand Slam.
Tennis aficionados will recall that the young woman was forced to retire from Wimbledon in the 4th round due to ‘breathing difficulties’ and what she described as sudden dizziness. The assumption, rightly or wrongly, was that the import of the occasion proved too much for her mentally but if that were indeed the case, less than 3 months later she not only held her nerve but played out of her skin, not dropping a single set throughout each and every match she played in the tournament, up to and including her triumphant final win.
It’s interesting to note that the women’s final was played out between two teenagers, Emma and Leylah Fernandez, both of whom were purely coincidentally born in Canada. Also that Emma not only became the youngest winner in the competition’s history but the first-ever qualifier to power through to a final win which not only bagged her a place in the history books but immediately catapulted her onto the worldwide stage, making a triumphant appearance at the prestigious Met Gala in New York earlier this week, dressed by Chanel and mingling with Hollywood A-Listers, high-ranking politicians and New York glitterati.
The UK Sun newspaper reported that immediately following her win, UK-based lawyer Anthony Brierley applied to safeguard and trademark the words 'Emma Raducanu', 'Emma' and 'Raducanu' . Described as a 'sponsor's dream', she is now on course to become the highest earning female sports star of all time, the first billion-dollar player, some have predicted. She banked a cheque for $2.5million (25 million pula) - over eight times her total previous career earnings - for her record-breaking win on Saturday and right there is everything that’s simultaneously right and wrong about not only tennis but most other popular sports today – it’s all about the money, not just from match winnings but far more from big-name sponsorship deals. And to this end it doesn’t hurt that Emma is drop-dead gorgeous with model looks and figure but she comes across as friendly, focused and with an old head on young shoulders, taking the win, the public adulation, the press attention and the whole razzamatazz in her stride.
The young athlete from Bromley, south-east London, became the first British woman to win a grand slam since Virginia Wade's Wimbledon triumph in 1977, with her 6-4, 6-3 victory over Leylah Fernandez. Agents have now predicted that top brands will be 'knocking down Emma's door' with endorsement offers worth tens of millions of pounds. Emma already has a clothing and shoe deal with Nike and racquet tie-up with Wilson, features large in the current edition of Vogue magazine and her Instagram followers have trebled to 1.2million since she started out as a US Open qualifier three weeks ago.
Well-known agent to the stars, and Chairman of InterTalent, Jonathan Shalit, says Emma could become the first billion dollar female sports star, predicting that Emma's off court earnings will swiftly surpass those of Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka and US legend Serena Williams - the world's two highest paid female athletes last year.
Speaking to the Daily Mail Mr Shalit said: 'In the space of a week, Emma has become a global phenomenon. 'I already have her down to become the first US$100 million British female sports star. And if she continues on her current trajectory, she will be worth US$1 billion and be the biggest female sports star in the world. Emma is a sponsor's dream. She is a mix of Romania, China, Britain and Canada. She is 18 and she is a gorgeous young woman. She is in a gladiatorial individual sport where she goes in armed only with a tennis racquet. Mr Shalit added that Emma's tearful fourth round summer exit from Wimbledon after suffering breathing difficulties only adds to her public appeal. 'She has had to overcome adversity after her stumble at Wimbledon. She has the perfect human interest story. Everything about Emma is the perfect storm. Emma comes along at a unique time in our history during the pandemic when people want to feel positivity and happiness. Whatever Nike are paying Emma, they will be back on the phone to her agent to tie her in for as long as they can, the same with Wilson. And anyone sponsoring Emma now will be paying tens of millions of pounds. 'Leisurewear, sports, health, fitness and lifestyle brands will be knocking down Emma's door. Every female teenager in the world will be looking at Emma. Whatever brands she is wearing, they will be asking their parents to buy it.'
Emma is currently represented by super agent Max Eisenbud who also handles Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka, Maria Sharapova and many other tennis aces. Her multi-cultural background, being half-Chinese and fluent in Mandarin, is seen as a big plus point in landing some global brand sponsors.
And along the way she might even play a bit more tennis! I can only say ‘What a racquet’!