Tennis participation numbers have been in steady decline in England, but Emma Raducanu’s US Open win looks to have bucked the trend for the better.
Raducanu made history as she won the US Open title in New York last year, becoming the first British woman to win a grand slam singles title since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977. As well as becoming the latest Brit to taste grand slam success, her maiden victory appears to have had a much wider effect than she could have imagined.
Since 2016, tennis participation levels in England have dropped by 28% despite the sport originating from the country, which also hosts arguably the most prestigious grand slam event of them all – Wimbledon. From 889,300 in 2016, only 641,800 people were playing in 2021, as per Sport England figures.
According to sports management app Spond, 2022 figures are set to show an increase for the first time in years with their data showing a year-on-year increase of 119%. Raducanu’s success is largely credited, with 42% of 100,000 Brits picking up a racket after watching her defeat Leylah Fernandez in the US Open final.
What Does This Mean for British Tennis?
With Andy Murray no longer dining at the top table of the sport due to a succession of injuries and a new metal hip following surgery, British tennis has been on the lookout for a new breakout star. While the likes of Laura Robson, Heather Watson, Johanna Konta, Cameron Norrie, and Dan Evans have all shown potential, they have either not quite managed to reach the top of the mountain or are yet to do so.
Raducanu, at least at the time of writing, has come nowhere close to matching her US Open heroics – but she is only a teenager that has played in a handful of grand slam competitions. There is plenty of time for Raducanu to add more titles to her roll of honour and even if she doesn’t, she has still done something that most players won’t in winning a grand slam.
What Raducanu has done, without a shadow of a doubt, is provide the country with a new female role model – someone that girls can look up to. Of those new to tennis after seeing Raducanu win in New York, a large proportion of those are young girls who may not have thought twice about playing.
With more than 24,000 tennis courts in England and Wales, many of which are free to use, there is plenty of facilities available to develop the next generation of British tennis players. It is clear that for British tennis to succeed, there has to be someone that young boys and girls can look up to in order for participation levels to thrive.
Hopefully in Raducanu, as well as others such as Norrie, youngsters again have someone they can dream of following in the footsteps of in the coming years.