The potential of Emma Raducanu has shone brightly at the Battle of the Brits team event at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton this week.
She took out Katie Boulter in straight sets, beat fellow rising star Jodie Burrage just as comfortably and then defeated former World No.76 Naomi Broady to finish off her singles action in style. Those wins gave the 17-year-old a 3-2 win-loss record in singles for the week. She lost to Burrage in a tense rematch and was outclassed by the in-form Heather Watson in her other encounter.
Raducanu also gained some valuable doubles experience. She partnered Joe Salisbury to a thrilling deciding tie-break victory over Burrage and Andy Murray, and then played further doubles matches alongside Salisbury and Kyle Edmund. Unfortunately, she was on the losing side in both those clashes.
In all her matches, Raducanu displayed many of the qualities that indicate what a bright future she is likely to have. She hits the ball powerfully on both sides and, while her backhand is currently her strongest suit, her forehand seems to be improving all the time. She also possesses a good serve which can very effective when she gets it right. However, her first-serve percentage has hovered around 50% for most of this event so she will need to work hard to enhance it.
Despite her youth, Raducanu already has numerous other things in her favour. She seems to be naturally athletic, which is a characteristic that is becoming ever more crucial in tennis. The youngster also appears to be strong mentally. She fights hard, produces many of her best shots under pressure and does not get too upset when things go against her. These traits will serve her well throughout her career.
Raducanu revels in team event atmosphereEmbed from Getty Images
While this week has undoubtedly been a great opportunity for Raducanu to show the British public what she can do, it has also been a fantastic chance to revel in the sheer joy of playing tennis – and the youngster seems to have done exactly that.
“This team event experience has been absolutely amazing,” Raducanu said in her on-court interview after her win over Broady. “If it happened again, I would be more than up for it because it’s been so much fun. It’s great to play alongside teammates who are supporting you and want you to win as much as you want yourself to win.”
As always with a talented youngster, the big question to ask is just how good will they become? For Raducanu, it will depend on a mixture of hard work and good fortune. If she continues to improve her already impressive game and avoids picking up a series of disruptive injuries, she should be targeting the top 100 at an absolute minimum. If Raducanu gets there, the top 50 should also be well within her reach, and she even has a chance to reach the top 20 or higher.
Encouragingly, the young Brit has two excellent role models to try and emulate. “I’ve got quite a few years ahead of me and I want to start playing how I want to picture myself in a couple of years,” she told the LTA. “I want to be athletic like Halep. I feel like I’ve got quite a good base right now but a lot to improve on and also Li Na – I’m a massive fan of her game. She’s got such powerful strokes. She went for everything and also she was very athletic in a more aggressive way. I loved her mentality, she never complained. That’s something I aspire to be like.”
When you watch Raducanu, you can definitely see some similarities to Li Na in the way she plays. And if she can reach a similar kind of level to the Chinese legend, Great Britain will certainly have a very special player on their books.