British tennis superstar Emma Raducanu talks travel
In 2021, she became Britain’s first female Grand Slam champ since 1977. As she celebrates the anniversary of her historic win, British Airways Global Brand Ambassador Emma Raducanu heads to the iconic Battersea Power Station, where she showcases some new season looks. Ally Wybrew meets her
There’s a gasp from behind the laptop: “Look at that colour!” Britain’s number one tennis player is critiquing her look on the monitor: a quilted, ankle-length Dior coat and heavy-duty boots. We’ve just begun our photoshoot in the control room of one of London’s most iconic buildings – Battersea Power Station – and Emma Raducanu has taken to it with the aplomb you’d think she’d reserve for her Grand Slam-winning on-court performances. Amid thick industrial lines and angular Art Deco reliefs, she’s a buoyant but focused presence, spontaneously popping peace signs at the camera.
It’s an exciting time for the 19-year-old. It’s a sizzling hot day in July, and we’re speaking a few weeks ahead of the US Open (where Raducanu secured her first dramatic Grand Slam win in 2021) and a week after she entered the WTA’s Top Ten Singles Rankings, something she acknowledges as “a huge achievement I never thought would come so soon”. Heading back to New York is thrilling for Raducanu, not only professionally, but personally. She loves the North American city for its “really good energy” and is a keen traveller, something likely instilled early on. At 18 months old she moved from her birthplace of Toronto to London and from then on was regularly dashing back and forth to Shenyang, China, to visit relatives. Tennis has taken her even further. Raducanu estimates she’s visited 30 to 40 countries in the last year alone.
Her schedule is such that we had only a few hours to nail today’s shots (she did, easily) but, between costume changes and location switches, Britain’s next big sporting hope is only too happy to chat about coffee, Concorde and how to handle disappointment…
How are you feeling in the run up to the US Open?
It’s been a tough year and it’s had its challenges, but I’m looking forward to going back to New York because I’ve obviously got such great memories there and I just love the city. Whatever happens on the tennis court, I think it’ll just be a good way to close the year and the chapter, then build and start fresh after that.
You’ve travelled a lot for your tennis career. What’s your most memorable trip?
I think Singapore was probably my favourite trip. I absolutely loved it. I’ve always wanted to visit and I went this year. Going there and experiencing it felt like a great reflection of me, because it’s where East and West meet. Singaporeans speak Mandarin and English [as does Raducanu], the food is great and the people are really welcoming – I was actually surprised by the reception I received.
What do you miss when you’re away?
I think when it comes to travelling it’s about creating an environment that feels like home, wherever you are. We’re on the road about 35 weeks of the year, so we’re travelling all the time. I miss random nostalgic things. And friends, of course. Everyone is going off to uni right now so we’re all going our separate ways. But at the moment my friends are back for the summer so it’s really nice to have a little reunion.
What do you never travel without?
I always take my milk frother with me, just in case! Then I can always froth my milk and have a great coffee or hot chocolate anywhere I go.
Are you a big coffee person?
Yeah, I love the taste of it. There’s nothing better. I’m quite lucky – travelling to so many places I get to try different cities’ best coffee. I think Australia has really amazing coffee.
How do you stay motivated?
I love the adrenaline of what I do and that keeps me motivated, for sure – that feeling of slight nerves and uncertainty. I find it in driving, too, and actually recently got on the track at Silverstone with Porsche, which was a really fun experience. I love being in the driving seat – whether it’s cars, motorbikes, planes – everything. I want to get every licence there is, but it might take me a while! It’s something I want to do in my lifetime. It’s about getting the adrenaline you don’t get if you’re not competing.
I think of everything that’s going to make me stronger, because they’re all just lessons and experiences
And how do you manage disappointment?
I think disappointment is something that everyone experiences in various industries or scenarios but, for me, I think of everything that’s going to make me stronger, because they’re all just lessons and experiences. I can take the learnings and apply them to the future and it’ll make me better as a person.
You’re coming up to your 20th birthday in November. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned as you leave your teens?
Probably to keep getting back up, no matter how hard it is and no matter how much you feel like everything is against you. To keep standing back up, putting yourself out there to see how many times life can throw you down and how many times you can get back up. Just take it as a game and a challenge.
Who are your heroes?
Professionally, there are a few. Michael Jordan is one. The desire and hunger – and the standards he held for himself – are something I really look up to and I can take into my tennis. Tennis-wise, my hero has always been Li Na. I always looked up to her. I drew similarities between me being half-Asian and her being Asian – as well as her mentality and physicality on the court. I modelled my game around her a bit.
What’s your bucket list destination?
Tokyo is number one. I really, really want to go there and I haven’t explored Asia as much as I would have liked to. I’ve been to China because my mum’s from there, but I really want to explore everywhere. I want to watch the cherry blossom, but that’s such a tough time in the tennis calendar so it’s probably never going to happen while I’m playing.
Do you recall your first travel experience?
My earliest memories are really of just going to Shenyang because my grandma and my whole family is from there. Also maybe before that was my first skiing experience. I went to Courchevel and Lech and learned about pizza slices and the basics, and I remember going up a ski lift on my own because my parents wanted me to do it and I was kind of scared at the time. I thought they were behind me and they said, “Yeah, yeah we’re right here.” I looked back at the top and saw they weren’t there. You can imagine how I felt at five years old!
You’re a self-certified aviation geek. Do you have a favourite plane?
Concorde. I really wish I could have flown in Concorde, that’s for sure. I’ve seen it on the track – I think it was out for an anniversary or something – but definitely.
Emma Raducanu is a British Airways Global Brand Ambassador
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