British teen tennis sensation Emma Raducanu, 18, has become an overnight national treasure after ruthlessly winning her US Open semi-final yesterday and securing a place in her first major final and a cheque for a minimum of $1.25million (£900,000).
But the sportswoman isn’t the only teen causing a stir in the tennis world. Her opponent in Saturday night’s final is Leylah Fernandez, 19, who like Emma is on an unstoppable rise to the top after beating out the Grand Slam’s favourites to secure a place at the top.
And that’s not the only thing the teen rivals have in common. Not only have they shaken the tennis world to reach the final, but they were both born in Canada – just two months apart in 2002 – to immigrant parents and both have a mixed raced heritage.
British teen tennis sensation Emma Raducanu, 18, has become an overnight national treasure after ruthlessly winning her US Open semi-final yesterday
But the sportswoman isn’t the only teen causing a stir in the tennis world. Her opponent in Saturday night’s final is Leylah Fernandez, 19, who like Emma is on an unstoppable rise to the top
Whoever wins will be the youngest female Grand Slam winner since Maria Sharapova, who was just 17 when she defeated Serena Williams in Wimbledon in 2004.
Emma is the first British woman to reach a a Grand Slam final in 44 years. Meanwhile Leylah will complete the line-up of the first all-teenage final at a major in 22 years.
Here, FEMAIL reveal the similarities between the pair, from their supportive parents, father coaches and very lucrative sponsorship deals…
SUPPORTIVE PARENTS AND PLAYING WITH THEIR FATHERS
Emma has reached the top of the tennis world, but for the US Open finalist it all began in a Bromley cul-de-sac where she rallied with her father from the age of four as neighbours watched in awe from their windows.
Even during lockdown, she could still be seen knocking tennis balls back and forth to her Romanian-born dad Ian.
Growing up an only child, Emma’s parents pushed her into all sorts of extracurricular activities including ballet, tap dancing, go-karting, motocross, and golf.
At the age of five, she picked up her first tennis racket at the Bromley Tennis Centre. and her other hobbies quickly gave way after she made the decision to fully commit to tennis.
Emma is the first British woman to reach a a Grand Slam final in 44 years. The new British No 1, when rankings update on Monday, dictated the entire match and needed just 84 minutes to claim victory
The 18-year-old wore a huge smile at the end as she now turns her attentions to Saturday’s final against Leylah Fernandez
And just like Emma, Leylah Fernandez credits her father as the driving influence behind her career.
Jorge Fernandez, an former professional footballer who played internationally for Ecuador. He was born in Guayaquil to Peruvian parents but moved to Canada aged four, where he met Leylah’s mother – Irene Exevea, who was born in the Phillipines.
Jorge had no background in tennis but he taught himself to play so he could be his daughter’s coach – and has previously credited his experience as a footballer to bring a unique style to his tennis coaching.
Similarly to Leylah, Emma has mixed Asian heritage and she also puts her success down to her parents Ian and Renee, from China, whose upbringing in communist countries drove her forward because they had so little growing up themselves.
The pair were both born in Canada – Emma in Toronto and Leylah in Montreal – but Emma’s parents moved her to London when she was just two.
On her Instagram page, the rising star references her global roots listing London, where she lives now, Toronto, where she was born and the two cities where her parents are from Bucharest in Romania and Shenyang in China.
This is the father of Wimbledon golden girl Emma Raducanu who helped his daughter storm into the last 16 by playing tennis with her in their quiet cul-de-sac
Emma’s mother Renee could be seen cheering and applauding her daughter in the crowd during her match on Saturday
Her dual heritage remains important to her and she’s spoken fondly of relatives across the globe, saying: ‘My grandma, Mamiya, still lives in central Bucharest. I go back a couple times a year, stay with her, see her. It’s really nice. I love the food, to be honest.
‘I mean, the food is unbelievable. And my grandma’s cooking is also something special. I do have ties to Bucharest.’
She’s also proud of her Chinese heritage. Emma speaks Mandarin and loves binge-watching Taiwanese TV shows.
Similarly, growing up in French-speaking part of Canada, Leylah is fluent in three languages and writes all her Instagram captions in English, French and Spanish.
Leylah, pictured with her parents and sister, was born in Montreal with her Ecudorian dad and her Filipino mother
Both have also revealed how their parents pushed them to the top of their game – but didn’t expect them to succeed at their level they are today.
‘My parents definitely have high expectations. In anything, not even just tennis. I have to be the best, do the best I can,’ Emma said last year.
‘When I was younger it was to please them, but now it’s great for me to do it on my own – that’s where I think I see the best results: when it’s me driving it.
‘They both came from academic families and in tough countries growing up – my dad in Romania and mum in China.
‘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.’
Emma, pictured in a sports car, is set to make millions due to her new success and status as an overnight treasure
Like Emma, Leylah enjoys a jetset lifestyle. She is pictured quad-biking in Egypt with a friend
Their ethos has clearly infused their daughter, who is gunning for both academic and sporting success.
The teenager, whose only treats are peanut butter and a solitary square of dark chocolate, reckons she’d probably be a lawyer if she wasn’t so focused on tennis.
In her first post-match press conference after defeating Shelby Rogers in straight sets in the semi-final, the teenager revealed that her parents were yet to get in touch, although she was inundated with messages from friends.
‘My parents actually like ghosted me after the match. I texted them, but they didn’t reply even though they were online!
She’s also spoken about how her dad threw her into every activity at a young age, from ballet to horse riding, swimming, tap dancing, basketball, skiing, golf and go-karting – as well as tennis.
‘My dad wanted to give me a diverse skill set and I was quite a shy girl and he wanted to get me out of my shell.
‘As I started winning in tennis, tournaments would take up the weekend so these other activities couldn’t happen any more, and tennis took over.’
Another similarity is that Fernandez seems to have been enjoying herself immensely during her run at Flushing Meadows.
Fernandez knocked out second seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6, 4-6 6-4 in New York City
But not completely. She took her books on tour with her and says: ‘For me, education is a great thing because I would love to keep my mind occupied, just challenging myself in every aspect. It is a great option in case injuries happen, or tennis doesn’t work out.’
She began to hone her skills seriously with coaches at Bromley Tennis Centre from the age of ten. Senior manager Tom Defrates told the Mail that she was one of the most skilled players the club had ever seen and used to fit in up to five hours a day of training.
Another similarity is that Fernandez seems to have been enjoying herself immensely during her run at Flushing Meadows.
As with the British player, there was an emphasis when growing up that there should be some balance in life, and that tennis should not be the be-all and end-all of her existence.
Emma Raducanu’s (pictured) career is without a doubt going to get bigger and better – with the teenage tennis sensation set to become a ‘worldwide household celebrity’, according to a branding expert
After her latest triumph Fernandez, whose father has stayed at home with her sister, recalled: ‘The way that my parents would teach me off court, saying that you can’t take things too seriously, you’ve got to be mature but at the same time just be a kid, let loose, have fun, eat chocolate when you want to, and just have fun, watch movies, go past your bedtime.’
He said, ‘It means everything. There’s a lot of talk in the news about immigrant people, and I understand. Nationalist sentiments, and I understand how we need to protect that, we have only so many resources, I understand that.
‘I don’t want to get political. That’s not what I’m doing. What I’m telling you is we’re an immigrant family, and we had nothing. So, Canada opened up its doors, and if they wouldn’t, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities that I have. And I wouldn’t have been able to give them to my daughter. So, it means a lot.’
SUCCESSFUL ACADEMIC CAREERS
While she’s now a household name, just a few months ago Emma was sitting her A-levels at Newstead Wood School where she got an A* in maths and an A in economics.
Teachers said it was quite clear that she would be a professional sportswoman, having excelled at ballet, go-karting, swimming and horse-riding before picking up a tennis racket. Her headteacher at Bickley Primary School, Rebecca Rodgers, remembers seeing her in the playground in reception class with her mouth open, because she was rallying with the coach when her classmates couldn’t hit the ball.
She said: ‘She was always sporty and would win all the sprint races on sports day. She was very shy, too, but we had some tennis coaching in the summer of her reception year, and with most kids at that age, you’re lucky if they’re even making contact [with the ball].
Fellow brainbox Leylah has previously revealed her parents were strict about school. Pictured at US open
‘But there was Emma having a rally with the coaches. We couldn’t quite believe it. Even then I remember thinking that we were going to see her at Wimbledon.’
She then moved on to Newstead Wood school, a selective grammar also attended by star sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, who allowed her to play before and after school as well as travel to tournaments abroad.
Headteacher Alan Blount said: ‘Sometimes Emma did early morning sessions in there and would be in school for 8.45am. And then she could be back there as soon as school had finished. That made it very easy for her to keep up to speed with both her tennis and her schoolwork.
Fellow brainbox Leylah has previously revealed her parents were strict about school.
The star attended the French-speaking École secondaire Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, with one of her friends previously revealing: ‘A lot of people don’t put in that much work and also manage school,” Alexis said. “I remember people would say ‘Oh my God, she’s so crazy for training so much, it’s not going to lead anywhere,’ but she proved the exact opposite’. She is pictured in Paris
The 18-year-old (pictured during her Vogue photoshoot), from Bromley, south-east London, made history today by ruthlessly winning her US Open semi-final in straight sets, defeating seventeenth seed Maria Sakkari 6-1, 6-4 in just 84 minutes for a place in her first major final
Speaking about her father, she told CBC: ‘The only thing he’s strict about is my schooling, like every parent is, other than that he just says balance your life, you have time to relax and hang out but when it’s time to work, you work. That’s all he wants for me, and to be independent.’
The star attended the French-speaking École secondaire Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, with one of her friends previously revealing: ‘A lot of people don’t put in that much work and also manage school,” Alexis said. “I remember people would say ‘Oh my God, she’s so crazy for training so much, it’s not going to lead anywhere,’ but she proved the exact opposite’
OPPOSING TENNIS STYLE
The pair share some similarities in tennis style – both have a two-handed back hand, though Emma is right-handed while Leylah is left.
Emma previously said the two players that influence her play are Simona Halep and Li Na.
Speaking of Chinese star Li Na, she told the LTA: ‘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.’
Though Emma’s path to the final has drawn rave reviews, Leylah has also beaten some of the biggest names in women’s tennis.
She produced a truly stunning display to beat No 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka in her semi-final after dispatching Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber and Elina Svitolina.
Despite some big hitting early on, Sabalenka had no answers as Fernandez roared into Saturday’s final.
Sabalenka started far stronger and bullied Fernandez around the court with thunderous forehands, but, having raced to a 4-1 lead, Fernandez fought back and the momentum shifted.
Speedy afoot and steady at crunch time, the unseeded Fernandez edged Sabalenka 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 on Thursday night in Arthur Ashe Stadium, earning the right to play for a Grand Slam title this weekend.
Leylah herself has revealed she was told by a school teacher to give up on tennis because she would never make it to the top of the game.
Dropped from Tennis Quebec’s development programme when she was seven, Leylah will now have the last laugh as she battles Emma for a winner’s purse of £1.8million.
And she revealed after her victory over Sabalenka on Arthur Ashe Stadium that she was urged to abandon her tennis dreams as a youngster but uses those doubts as motivation on the court now.
‘A lot of people doubted me, my family and my dreams,’ said Fernandez after knocking out second seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6, 4-6 6-4.
‘They kept saying ‘No’, that I’m not going to be a professional tennis player, that I should stop and just pursue going to school.
‘I remember one teacher, which was actually very funny – at the time it wasn’t, but now I’m laughing.
‘She told me to stop playing tennis, you will never make it, and just focus on school.
‘I’m glad she told me that because every day I have that phrase in my head saying: ‘I’m going to keep going, push through, prove to her everything I’ve dreamed of I’m going to achieve.”
SET TO BE WORTH MILLIONS
On top of the extraordinary number of parallels the pair share, they are certain to be reeling in a lot of very lucrative deals.
Emma’s incredible performances in New York and at the SW19 tournament have seen her go from 366th in the world rankings to the top 80, increased her Instagram following to a staggering 609,000, and secured her first Vogue photoshoot, which appears in next month’s issue.
At just 18. she already worth millions having taken a whopping $303,376 in prize money.
Experts have also branded the teenager as a ‘natural successor’ to Andy Murray as the new star of British tennis – while her former coach said he wasn’t surprised by her incredible performance.
And according to a branding expert, there is ‘little doubt’ the 18-year-old from Bromley, south-east London will be a millionaire by the end of this year, with brands likely to be clambering over themselves to sign her up following her second Grand Slam appearance.
Meanwhile Leylah is quickly becoming the face of Canadian tennis as the teenager and is gaining new fans with every tournament.
She already has endorsement deals with Nike and Babolat and often shares sponsored posts to her 144,000 Instagram followers that enjoy seeing pictures of the jetset lifesyle tennis allows her.
Leylah has won a huge $786,772 in prize money and is believe to already be a millionaire.
Emma (pictured) won an army of fans at Wimbledon, admitting in her charmingly humble post-match interview on court that she never expected to make the second week
Raducanu pictured as a toddler; she moved with parents Ian and Renee to England in 2004