Emma Raducanu bows out at Wimbledon but still has 3 million reasons to smile

Having played just once against the tennis elite ahead of her Wimbledon whirlwind, Emma Raducanu’s career earnings stood at £28,762.

Barely a week on, however, and British tennis’s new golden girl’s "smile alone" has been valued by marketeers at £3 million, despite her disappointing loss against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic on Monday night.

A new world of megabucks brand endorsements now beckons for the down-to-earth Bromley teenager who only sat her A-levels two months ago.

The 18-year-old’s long list of new business interests will be spearheaded by Max Eisenbud, one of sport’s most powerful super agents.

Eisenbud, vice-president of tennis at entertainment giant IMG, is best known for helping Maria Sharapova earn up to £20 million a year in sponsorships.

The renowned starmaker, who has been on Court No 1 to see Raducanu progress to the second week of Wimbledon, is now relishing the prospect of building her brand.

Marcel Knobil, founder of the Brand Council consultancy, said that Raducanu’s smile was worth at least £3 million. “I’m confident that within a year she would be earning £3 million to £5 million in sponsorship alone," the sponsorship guru added.

He said that Raducanu had already secured sponsorship from Nike and Wilson and could aspire to emulate the best-paid players in sport.

Roger Federer is worth £77 million from winnings and endorsements from brands including Uniqlo and Mercedes, while Lewis Hamilton is worth £39 million.

“[Raducanu] has so many qualities that brands would love to be associated with," Knobil added. 

He said that her easy smile was central to her appeal.

"It’s so easy to look at an opposite in the world of tennis and that was Andy Murray," he added. "Emma Raducanu has the positivity, the smile, that brands want. It’s no accident that you find smiles within logos."

Her success captured the imagination of spectators gathering for her last 16 match on Court 1 on Monday, many of whom supported calls to rename the Henman Hill/Murray Mount area as Raducanu Rise.

Despite the riches now on offer, her old friends insisted last night that she would keep her feet on the ground.

Young star is ‘one of a kind’

Luke Ralph, 18, a school friend who trained at Bromley tennis centre with Raducanu, said she was "one of a kind".

He recalled one occasion when he was on his way home from training and saw Raducanu, who was 13 at the time, practising serves by herself in the dark.

"She was the kind of person who just had that dedication to do anything she could, really," he said. "We were probably just going home for dinner, wanting to get back, and she was just out there training so I think it’s a sign of her character, that determination."

Harry Bushnell, who coached Raducanu until she was 11 at the Parklangley Club in Beckenham, Kent, added: "She was always just very hardworking, very polite, and very well-mannered. I guess what you see now is what’s always been there."

Matt James, a Lawn Tennis Association coach who has worked with the prodigy for two years, said her exposure to a wide range of sports – including motocross and ballet – had played a major factor in her success.

"One of the best things with Emma is that she was exposed to a lot of sports from a young age, and didn’t go too specific into tennis straight away," he said. "I see that on court.

"When she’s learning a new skill, or trying something a little bit different, she has the ability to pick things up very quickly, even if it’s quite a big technical change. She was doing golf, ballet, motocross, horse riding, skiing and basketball from a very early age."

Education first

Raducanu, who was ranked 338 in the world, put her tennis career on hold during the coronavirus pandemic in order to concentrate on her A-levels.

Focusing on her studies this year at Newstead Wood in Orpington has been the priority for her Romanian father Ian and Chinese mother Renee.

On Monday night, staff and club members gathered to watch her match from Bromley Tennis club, where she played regularly from the age of nine to 16, before moving on to train at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, south-west London.  

Mystery medical issue

Raducanu’s Wimbledon run came to an end in sad circumstances as she suffered a mystery medical issue which forced  her to abandon play in the second set.

Raducanu seeks medical treatment after appearing to show signs of illness during the second set of her eventual defeat on Monday night

She already looked bound for defeat in straight sets as Tomljanovic, a 28-year-old ranked 75th in the world, was in firm control, with the young Briton suffering with an apparent stomach or breathing issue.

"I’m shocked and it’s bittersweet," the Australian said as the match was eventually cancelled.

There had been regular shouts of "we love you Emma" throughout the match, with her mother and father both watching on proudly. Following her exit on Monday, Raducanu takes home £181,000, which she has promised to partly spend on taking her family and coaching team out for a big meal.

Raducanu’s explosion onto the scene was a major stroke of luck for Eisenbud, as she had been signed up by another agent, John Morris, while still playing junior tennis.

The relationship between Maria Sharapova and Max Eisenbud broke down over the Russian's drugs ban in 2016

Credit: Celeste Sloman for The New York Times

He subsequently left the IMG stable but Raducanu remained on their books.

Eisenbud’s relationship with Sharapova, meanwhile, previously broke down over the Russian’s drugs ban in 2016.

At the time Eisenbud told a tribunal he had assumed responsibility for checking whether Sharapova’s medication and supplements complied with the World Anti-Doping Agency code.

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