In a sport plagued down the years by pushy parents, Britain’s overnight teenage tennis sensation has a secret weapon: her mother and father are more interested in her exam results.
Emma Raducanu, the 18-year-old who continues her extraordinary Wimbledon adventure in the third round on Saturday, owes much of her success to their “measured” approach, her coach and teachers believe.
Heralding from the same selective grammar school as another summer sporting hope, Dina Asher-Smith, Raducanu has long been touted within tennis circles as the next big thing.
Few, however, expected her to overcome Marketa Vondrousova on Thursday night – a player ranked 296 places above her – just weeks after sitting her A-level exams.
Her path into tennis had been set by her Romanian father, Ian, who had been determined to find a way to give his shy daughter confidence.
She also tried out ballet, horse riding, swimming, tap dancing, basketball and even motocross.
Emma Wanostrocht, a senior manager at Bromley Tennis Centre, where she played until the age of 16, told The Telegraph she shared the same “intensity” as Ian.
However, her family background is a world away from the long list of tennis horror stories that includes the father of Mary Pierce, the French Open winner, once telling her to “kill” an opponent.
Raducanu’s current coach, Neil Sears – father of Sir Andy Murray’s wife Kim – said Ian and her mother, Renee, were the antithesis of that aggressive approach.
“I think that the parents have had a very sort of sensible and measured approach to it,” he said.
The father, he said, “has a very measured approach to things”.
“He didn’t feel, quite wisely at times, that it was right to risk traveling unnecessarily during Covid … So he’s never over-pressed for her to play a huge number of tournaments.”
Instead, it appears her parents are still keeping a closer eye on her exams after she completed her A-levels in mathematics and economics last month.
She had not played a professional tournament since March 2020 before this week.
It is only in education rather than tennis that her parents have turned the screw.
“I have to be the best, do the best I can,” Raducanu said of her parents’ school expectation.
“They both came from very academic families and in pretty tough countries growing up – my dad in Romania and mum in China – so they probably have a lot of that remaining. They were both communist countries so education was kind of their only option.
“They want me to have options, they think my education is very important for my future.”
Raducanu took up tennis aged five, and her potential was spotted early by the Lawn Tennis Association, which has supported her on the Pro Scholarship Programme, a scheme that provides assistance to Britain’s young players with the potential to reach the top 100 within five years.
Born in Toronto, she moved to London at the age of two, and reached the quarter-finals of junior Wimbledon three years ago.
Focusing on her studies this year at Newstead Wood in Orpington, Kent, was the kind of normality her parents were keen to foster in their efforts to shield her from the spotlight.
But that will be near-impossible now, after her already sensational week at these Championships.
Her world ranking of 338 is set to soar after this run to the third round, and with her win on Thursday she earned £115,000 – nearly four times her career earnings to date.
One of six British women to be handed a wildcard into the singles draw, she plays on Saturday against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, when she will no doubt get a show court billing.
Raducanu’s parents kept a low profile at Wimbledon on Friday but Sears said she had handled the sudden explosion of interest “superbly”.
She described her as a “very smart girl, and very grounded” and “very ambitious”.
“I just think she’s born to play tennis and she likes the stage, and she’s eating it up,” he added.
Sarah Eells, her PE teacher at Newstead, said she had created “a big buzz and thrill” around her school on Friday.
“She’s very humble,” Ms Eells told The Telegraph. “I taught her from year seven, and she just trained so hard. She’s very dedicated.
“She’s a great role model, a great inspiration, and it’s wonderful for us that she did so well. We’re super proud – couldn’t be prouder really.”
The school is equally excited about seeing Asher-Smith compete for sprint gold at the delayed Olympics in Tokyo.
“We’re very fortunate to have these young inspiring young women,” she added. “For our students in particular, knowing that they’ve lived through it and managed to have an education as well as being very successful, it’s amazing. It just shows what you can do when you put your mind on it.”