The Washington Post

Raducanu has gained fans the world over

- BY KARLA ADAM karla.adam@washpost.com

london — Everyone wants to claim Emma Raducanu as their own.

When the teenage tennis sensation won the U.S. Open on Saturday, she was hailed as the first British woman to claim a Grand Slam title in 44 years. But because she was born in Toronto to a Chinese mother and Romanian father before moving to a London suburb as a toddler, fans in multiple countries are celebratin­g her as a sports hero and a cultural ambassador.

Many Romanians who watched the final noticed that she wore red, yellow and blue, the same colors as the Romanian flag.

Fans in China were thrilled when she told British Vogue that her self-confidence was rooted in her mother’s culture — and they were elated when she recorded a video thanking them in Mandarin.

Raducanu embraces all of her heritage. Her Twitter bio reads “london|toronto|shenyang|bucharest.” And so she is being embraced, in turn, as the embodiment of what it means to be British.

“[Raducanu’s] story is London’s story,” Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, where almost 40 percent of residents are foreign-born, said on Twitter. “Here in London, we embrace and celebrate our diversity. And if you work hard, and get a helping hand, you can achieve anything.”

Many Brits have been defensive about their country’s attitudes toward immigrants since Brexit, which was fueled in large part by anti-immigrant sentiment.

And earlier this summer, during the European Championsh­ip in which England made it to the final, many were stunned — others were not — to see racist abuse directed at the three Black English soccer players who missed penalty kicks. A mural of one of the players, Marcus Rashford, was vandalized. The following day, hundreds of fans posted messages of solidarity and support.

Raducanu bested Canadian Leylah Fernandez, 19, in the women’s singles final Saturday. With the victory, the 18-year-old became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title in tennis’s Open era.

After the win, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter that she “showed extraordin­ary skill, poise and guts and we are all hugely proud of [her].”

Queen Elizabeth II wrote of her “remarkable achievemen­t at such a young age,” which she said was a “testament to your hard work and dedication.”

Raducanu was clearly pleased that the 95-year-old monarch had watched her match.

“I was extremely honored and very, very grateful that she took notice of my tennis. I can’t believe it,” she told the BBC. “I’m maybe going to frame that letter or something.”

Political agitator Nigel Farage, perhaps the most vocal proponent of Brexit, also praised Raducanu, tweeting: “A global megastar is born.” He was widely criticized on social media, where users were quick to dig up previous remarks he had made about immigrants and, in particular, about Romanians.

Some Brits who come from immigrant families see Raducanu’s win as one for all immigrants.

Television presenter Adil Ray tweeted: “Perhaps because some of us have grown up with abuse, bricks through the window and at our heads for being an immigrant. When a fellow immigrant flies the British flag, it brings us immense pride and strength. A rare moment when we can answer back to the decades of hate.”

Others, though, questioned why her heritage is brought up at all.

Radio presenter Julia HartleyBre­wer responded: “She’s British.” She added: “The only people obsessed with her heritage, ethnicity and race are the people who proclaim to be so pro-immigrant, colour blind and so wonderful. They’re the racists.”

For her part, Raducanu has spoken fondly about her ties to Romania and China.

“It’s really nice,” she has said of visiting her grandmothe­r in Romania. “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.”

On “Good Morning America” on Monday, she paid tribute to both of her parents, saying she got her mental resilience from them.

“They’re my toughest critics and very, very hard to please,” she said, laughing, “but I got them this time!”

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