All eyes have been on Emma Raducanu as she blazed her incredible trail to glory in the US Open – but there have been two notable absentees from the Flushing Meadow crowds: her devoted parents.
As the teen sensation wowed the final stages of the Grand Slam contest, her mother Renee was 3,500 miles away from New York in the rather less glamorous settings of Bromley, South-East
But while draconian Covid restrictions kept her out of America, Renee was busy working on behalf of her daughter, collecting her award for Kent Player of the Year at the Sundridge Park tennis club.
It is an honour received with no less pride than the sport’s highest accolades, for the Raducanu family has remained loyal to those at the grassroots level who set Emma off on the path to superstardom.
All eyes have been on Emma Raducanu (pictured visiting Bickley Primary School) in the US Open – but there have been two notable absentees from the crowds: her parents
The humility and quiet self-belief demonstrated by Renee and her husband Ian, who both work in finance, has clearly been passed down to the 18-year-old who has won an army of fans with her quiet resolve and self-deprecating humour.
Emma first picked up a tennis racquet aged five and a year later was listed on Bromley Tennis Centre’s roll of honour, having won the Under-8s Girls’ Championships.
Soon, Emma was a regular on the circuit of local and regional competitions with Renee eager to show off her daughter’s skill.
Renee’s former colleague, broker Julian Guthrie, recalled how he was challenged to a match against the young Emma, telling The Mail on Sunday: ‘I’m a keen player and I used to make jokes, saying ‘there’s no way I’d lose to a ten-year-old girl’.
‘But Renee would say, ‘I tell you what, you would. Why don’t you come and play?’ Luckily for my ego, this didn’t actually come off.’
And he said Emma hasn’t changed since then, explaining: ‘What you see now on the TV is exactly as she’s always been. I love the way Emma has turned out and it’s a reflection on her mother.
The humility demonstrated by Renee (pictured) and her husband Ian, has clearly been passed down to the 18-year-old who has won an army of fans with her quiet resolve
‘Renee is very correct, very sure of herself, principled and just a lovely, positive person. To me, her principle quality is her calmness and Emma has inherited that.
‘I never heard Renee lose her temper or raise her voice and you can see that in her daughter on the court. Emma’s parents never liked negativity and would quickly snap her out of any hissy fits as a child.’
Speaking to Vogue magazine, Emma praised her mother for instilling her with self-belief: ‘I think the confidence comes from just inner belief. My mum comes from a Chinese background, they have very good self-belief.
‘It’s not necessarily about telling everyone how good you are, but it’s about believing it within yourself. I really respect that about the culture.’
Renee was originally known as Dong Mei Zhai and grew up in Shenyang, North East China, before moving to Toronto, where she met her Romanian husband.
The family moved to Bromley when Emma was two and now live in a £345,000 home in a suburban cul-de-sac there.
A shy girl, Emma was encouraged by her father to get into sport and she is also a talented ballet dancer, go-karter, swimmer and horse rider.
Indeed, in China Emma is better known on the table tennis circuit and she plays at the professional club in Shenyang during her annual visits to see her mother’s family members.
In an interview last year, Emma said: ‘My mum’s side of the family are so mentally resilient. It’s like nothing can bring them down. I would say I take a big part of my inspiration from her. My mum has worked very hard.’
Ian, meanwhile, is described as softly-spoken and approachable –someone who is interested in people and subtly interrogates them as he chats.
Emma (pictured) first picked up a tennis racquet aged five and a year later was listed on Bromley Tennis Centre’s roll of honour, having won the Under-8s Girls’ Championships
He was been overseeing his daughter’s training, although he has often raised eyebrows with his choices. As one coach put it: ‘People just thought he was a bit out there.’
Emma credits her parents’ background for her work ethic, saying: ‘They both come from academic families and in pretty tough countries growing up so they probably have a lot of that remaining.
‘They want me to have options, they think my education is very important for my future.’
With an A* maths A-level and A in economics from Newstead Wood grammar school in Orpington, she has taken heed of that advice too.
Emma has remained in touch with her former teachers and even returned to her primary school, Bickley, for its sports day over the summer.
There her former teacher Rebecca Rodger said that despite Emma’s dizzying success she ‘is still the same girl I recognise from when she started school.
‘She is still very determined, very grounded, still wants to achieve really well and you can still see in her that little girl that I knew.
‘It’s been amazing and I’m sure she’s going to go on and achieve even greater things,’ she told ITV.
Train driver, 41, who ‘discovered’ Emma Raducanu when she was aged eight asks passengers to update him on her progress during vital match
By Robert Dineen and Caroline Graham
A train driver who ‘discovered’ Emma Raducanu last night told how he begged passengers to update him on her progress during a vital match.
Simon Dahdi, 41, was working as a talent scout for the Lawn Tennis Association when he spotted Ms Raducanu’s world-beating potential. She was just eight years old.
Mr Dahdi, a driver for Thameslink, told The Mail on Sunday that he was forced to put out an announcement asking passengers to tell him the score during Ms Raducanu’s nail-biting third round match against Romanian Sorana Cirstea at Wimbledon in July.
Mr Dahdi, from Orpington, Kent, who quit tennis in 2016, said: ‘I got to Blackfriars Station [in Central London]. She was in the third round at Wimbledon. But I couldn’t drive with my phone switched on.
Train driver Simon Dahdi was working as a talent scout for the Lawn Tennis Association when he spotted Emma Raducanu’s (pictured) world-beating potential when she was eight years old
‘I turned my phone on when I got to Blackfriars and saw that they changed ends. She was winning 6-3. I was like, ‘Wow! She’s got a chance to get to the fourth round!’ I couldn’t believe it. Then I switched off my phone again.
‘After a few stops I thought, ‘I need to know what’s going on.’ ‘ So he made an announcement.
‘I said, ‘If anyone is watching a bit of Wimbledon, there’s a girl called Emma Raducanu who is a great player from Bromley and if you can tell me what the score is, that would be great’.
‘So at different stops, people were coming up to the front of the train and telling me the score.’
As he drove into Bickley, a male passenger told him his former protege had won. ‘I said, ‘Crikey!’ I was so happy,’ he recalled.
Ms Raducanu would lose her next match, but her potential was clear.
Mr Dahdi spotted Ms Raducanu at the Parklangley Club in Beckenham, Kent, and watched her play from the age of eight to ten.
He never had any doubt she was destined for greatness. ‘It was obvious how talented she was,’ he said.
British tennis star Emma Raducanu beams for the camera in these adorable family photo album snaps
BRING ME SUNSHINE: With mum Renee on a family trip to Granada in Spain
FEELING A LITTLE HORSE: Emma seems happy to have made a new equine friend while on holiday aged about seven
A STRONG CLAW-HAND: Young Emma looks set for a tasty lobster dinner
ON THE BEACH: The young Emma takes a paddle in the sea in this childhood shot, posted on social media by her mum
SLICE IT: Even as a toddler, Canadian-born Emma was cream of the crop
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