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Australian Open: A star was born at the US Open in 2021; now look for the Emma Raducanu sequel

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ON THE OUTSKIRTS of Hyde Park in the middle of London is the Royal Albert Hall. A place commissioned by Queen Victoria in the late 19th century, it has hosted rock stars and royalty. Synonymous with glitz and glamour, the steeping banks of chairs all focus down in the vast auditorium.

It is a place built for entertainment.

To get an idea of what it’s like to be Emma Raducanu in 2022, her journey so far can be summed up in three visits to the famous old concert hall.

On Dec. 6, 2008, Pete Sampras was making his Albert Hall debut for the “Masters Tennis.” He was there alongside Goran Ivanisevic, Stefan Edberg and John McEnroe. A 6-year-old Raducanu watched from The Circle, high, high above. The players looked like ants playing the most miraculous tennis shots. Raducanu laughed along with the antics of trick shot master Mansour Bahrami. She was enthralled.

emma raducanu

Fast forward to Sept. 29, 2021. Fifteen days after attending the Met Gala in New York City, Raducanu was back at the Royal Albert Hall alongside Stormzy, Billie Eilish, Harry Kane and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for the royal premiere of the new James Bond film “No Time to Die.” She was asked the questions celebrities get asked in these moments: “Who are you wearing?” (It was Dior, by the way.) Nearby, the film’s lead, Daniel Craig, was fielding questions in the rain. Raducanu’s smile beamed through the shouts of “Emma, here!” and hundreds of photographers’ camera flashes. She’d be on the front cover of most newspapers the following day, ahead of the Bond cast. The headlines screamed in large font: “Raducanu serves on the red carpet” and “Raducanu aces red-carpet glamour.”

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It was around this time that she returned to the home of the Lawn Tennis Association — the national governing body of tennis in the U.K. — for the first time since she’d won the US Open. She was there with her dad and coaches. Emma said she wanted her US Open trophy to live there. Her dad had something more pressing on his mind: He was concerned about her forehand grip.

emma

In late November, she was standing in the middle of Royal Albert Hall, soaking up the adulation of the British public. Weeks after celebrating her 19th birthday, she had the place in the palm of her hand as the new queen of the sport. She’d completed a straight-sets victory in the end-of-year jamboree called “The Battle of the Brits” over her friend Elena-Gabriela Ruse. The result was largely irrelevant, but this was to be her last on-court appearance of 2021.

It was a celebration of Raducanu’s year.

She told her fans about how she still takes the train. She said she is the same as any other teenager — albeit one who became the first tennis player to win the US Open as a qualifier months earlier. The crowd laughed as she spoke about how her parents had told her off for saying she was tired. They loudly cheered her name in the famous old building, a sporting coronation in Queen Victoria’s parlor.

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