"A Beacon of Positivity": Emma Raducanu's victory is one for British diversity

Featured image: Peter Menzel via Flickr. Image license found here.

The 2020’s haven’t exactly been roaring for anyone, with the pandemic plunging society into social and economic chaos. Yet 2021, is certainly proving to be the year for Emma Raducanu.

Although no stranger to success on the tennis court - having experienced her first taste of international triumph aged ten in the Tennis Europe 11 & Under event - Raducanu remained a tennis outsider, ranking 345th in the world at the start of the year. It was only the LTA’s wildcard selection that even made her Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon a possibility. The odds have certainly been against her with no one (besides those few tennis aficionados who have closely watched her promising decade-long development) expecting her to make quite the storm she did in making it to the last 16 of the championship – the youngest British woman to do so.

In fact, Raducanu’s victory may help transform British society for the better, in a way far beyond the control of her racket.

Since then, the teenage tennis sensation has captured the hearts of the nation and the “imagination of the world”, propelling British sport onto the global stage once again with her recent victory at the US Open. Raducanu dominated Canadian Leylah Fernandez, beating her in straight sets and becoming the first British woman to win a Grand Slam singles title since Virginia Wade’s Wimbledon win in 1977. If you didn’t pay her attention at Wimbledon, you certainly will now, with the youngster tipped to become Britain’s first billion-dollar sports star.  To top off Raducanu’s resounding year, she has been rubbing shoulders with the likes of Rihanna at the Met Gala, fashion’s biggest night of the year, in addition to receiving outstanding A-Level results including an A* in Mathematics and an A in Economics.

Yet her victory and meteoric rise into superstardom cannot, or rather should not, be viewed in isolation, as a sole, personal success but as a symbolic victory for British diversity in the face of the xenophobia that remains rooted in shadowy sections of British society. In fact, Raducanu’s victory may help transform British society for the better, in a way far beyond the control of her racket.

Raducanu is emblematic of a global citizen. She is the daughter of Romanian Ian Raducanu and Chinese Renee Raducanu and was born in Toronto, Canada. Her family relocated to England when she was just two years old, and she now holds dual Canadian and British citizenship. She also speaks fluent Mandarin, a skill she displayed upon addressing her Asian supporters shortly after her win. Given both the cultural richness of Raducanu’s roots and her expertise on the court, we are fortunate to hail her victory as a British one.

Not unlike 2021’s esteemed England football squad, which also champions British diversity with just three players from the squad (Pickford, Shaw, and Stones) having exclusively English roots, Raducanu’s case is serving as a reminder that our diversity and multiculturalism is what strengthens us. It allows us to take centre stage – or court – and draw upon a multitude of experiences that ultimately place us, both as individuals and as a society, in an advantageous position. And this, therefore, is a beacon of positivity against the darkness of xenophobia.

to ignore Emma Raducanu’s multiculturalism may be irresponsible. Especially as British politics has been steadily veering further to the right.

Many have argued, though, that Raducanu’s heritage is irrelevant to her success. They cite that her victory on Saturday, and rise through the ranks to now hold position No 23 in the world, is down to her years of hard work, resilience (after suffering an anxiety induced panic attack causing her withdrawal at Wimbledon), and, perhaps, her lucky break as wildcard earlier this year. We should just treasure our new tennis superstar and celebrate her fairy-tale win.

Whilst this is certainly true – after all how many of us could win a friendly tennis rally let alone dominate a Grand Slam final – to ignore Emma Raducanu’s multiculturalism may be irresponsible. Especially as British politics has been steadily veering further to the right.

There can be no doubt that xenophobia has had a firm grip over Britain, no more so than in recent years in which the success of the Leave campaign was largely due to its ability to activate the deep-rooted fear of immigration that had lay dormant in so many, for so long.

With populist voices like Nigel Farage stoking the xenophobic wildfire engulfing Britain, with UKIP’s “breaking point” poster and Priti Patel’s proposal to turn migrant boats back out across the Channel (in her own form of a political ‘tennis rally’ with French President Emmanuel Macron whose own navy has been accused of ushering migrants into UK waters), it is no surprise that Britain desperately needs an antidote to combat this xenophobia. And this is where Raducanu’s rule of the racket comes into play.

Her triumph has awakened a sense of national pride. 9.2 million British viewers tuned in to watch the US Open final. Her success acts as a reminder not only that Britain is built on multiculturalism (quite literally with the help given to the nation by the Windrush generation in the aftermath of the Second World War) but also that Britain truly is great. A great place in which opportunity is offered to all and we celebrate individual victories as one.

Emma Raducanu may have won the Woman’s Singles Grand Slam title, but the enduring message of her symbolic victory is for us all.